Jeramey Jannene

The Backyard Bar Creating New Backyard

Bay View bar losing its patio to new restaurant, but creating new space by demolishing house.

By - Jul 14th, 2022 03:16 pm
Demolition of the duplex behind The Backyard, 2155 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Demolition of the duplex behind The Backyard, 2155 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Backyard tavern in Bay View will soon have an entirely new backyard. And for the first time, it will actually be in the back.

In May, a restauranteur requested a zoning variance from the city to build a multi-building restaurant complex on the lot at 2159-2161 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. The news seemingly put an end to The Backyard actually having a “backyard.” The 60-foot-wide lot immediately south of the bar has spent the past decade as its patio.

But as it turns out the southside bar, at 2155 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., won’t need a new name. Instead, owner Sam Leaf is demolishing a rear carriage house. The Backyard will get an actual backyard even as it loses its sideyard.

A crew from Brew City Environmental & Restoration Services was on site Thursday wrecking the duplex. A permit lists the estimated cost of the job at $14,500.

The sideyard lot hasn’t always been vacant. When the two-story building that houses The Backyard was constructed in 1909, a commercial building with a movie theater sat on the now-vacant lot. That building was still standing in 1990, when the Wisconsin Historical Society surveyed the area, but permit records indicate it spent the next decade being written up by building inspectors for structural issues before being demolished in 2000.

The 1,100-square-foot house predated the tavern building. An 1894 Sanborn fire insurance map shows a house on the property, already set back from the street. But the 1910 map shows both the bar and the house, though the latter has a slightly different footprint and location than it did in 1894. It was not uncommon for houses in that era to be moved to the rear of the lot to allow a larger structure to be constructed in front.

Urban Milwaukee contributor Michael Horne wrote an extensive history of the tavern building and its many successive tenants in 2017.

The Backyard opened in 2011. Leaf, who also owns Sam’s Tap and Leaf Property Investments, acquired the tavern-duplex property the same year for $240,000.

Leaf did not respond to a comment by the time of publication.

Leaf, his investment firm and a property manager for his two East Side rooming houses face a discrimination charge by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for allegedly violating the Fair Housing Act protected rights of a tenant on the basis of sex and disability. HUD, which announced the case in March, did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.

It is unclear if and when the sideyard lot would be developed.

Pramoth Lertsinsongserm, co-owner of Japanese and Thai restaurant Rice N Roll Bistro, is proposing to develop a $2.5 million restaurant complex on the 0.37-acre lot.

Under Lertsinsongserm’s plan, two buildings would face S. Kinnickinnic Ave., with a walkway between to access a large rear patio and parking lot.

A two-story building would contain a dining room, kitchen and second-level deck on the north side of the lot. It would include a portion of the one-story garage structure currently in the middle of the lot, with the remainder of that garage stripped to its frame and becoming an outdoor seating area. A smaller, one-story building would be located on the south side of the lot.

Dan Beyer of Dan Beyer Architects is leading the design of the proposed complex. Kelly Construction & Design would serve as the general contractor.

The Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously approved Lertsinsongserm’s plans last month.

Lertsinsongserm acquired the lot in March 2021 for $600,000 from longtime owner Ronald Wojciechowski. Leaf, according to city assessment records, never owned the side lot.

2017 The Backyard Photos

Demolition Photos

New Restaurant Renderings

Site and Pre-Demolition Photos

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