County weighs plans for Bradford Beach bar-restaurant expansion

The Dock proposing to open container bar, add seating on upper level by summer

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The operator of food and beverage concessions at Bradford Beach in Milwaukee is moving forward with plans to expand the service footprint at its pavilion bar-restaurant, The Dock.

Dock Bradford LLC is proposing to add a container bar as well as additional tables and chairs and lounge areas on the upper deck of the historic beach house building, located at 2400 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive, in time for the 2021 season.

Currently, The Dock has a covered dining area on the ground floor of the pavilion, adjacent to the kitchen and public restrooms, and some seating on the upper floor.

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In a project proposal submitted to the county, the operator explained that the second floor is being used at a limited capacity, which has contributed to crowding on the main level and beach. Opening the upper level space for full-service dining, with patio furniture and umbrellas, would help control crowds and allow patrons to “better enjoy the sights and sounds of the Milwaukee lakefront.”

“We’re trying to give more people access to the lakefront and try to spread it out a bit as well,” said Nick Hynes, partner at CCH Management LLC, which owns Dock Bradford LLC. “By activating the upstairs portion, which is really not being utilized at all, we feel that you’re going to be able to spread out and actually allow more people access and more comfortable access (to Bradford Beach).”

Hynes and his business partner Luke Cholodecki appeared before the Milwaukee County Board’s Parks, Energy & Environment Committee Tuesday to provide additional information and respond to concerns that the project could limit public access to the beach and its facilities.

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CCH Management LLC signed a five-year lease agreement with Milwaukee County Parks in May 2019. In addition to the pavilion bar-restaurant, Dock Bradford operates three tiki bars on the beach.

The group first proposed the pavilion expansion last year, and after revising original plans, gained approval from the Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission. The proposal still needs city permits for engineering and ADA requirements before it gets the final green light from Milwaukee County Parks.

Responding to concerns over public access, Jeremy Lucas, director of administration and planning at Milwaukee County Parks noted during the Tuesday meeting that the lease agreement requires public access to the occupied property.

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Some committee officials raised questions of what “further privatizing” the public beach would mean for members of the general public. Supervisor Liz Sumner said she had received emails from constituents asking if Bradford Beach is being sold and sought clarification on the nature of the project.

“The beach is not for sale or to be privatized — it is open to all,” said Jeremy Lucas, director of administration and planning at Milwaukee County Parks.

Hynes said the portion of seating directly serviced by The Dock restaurant is open to paying customers only, but there’s additional seating on both the first and second floors that is open to anyone.

CCH Management also operates a beachside restaurant at Montrose Beach in Chicago, which opened in 2010. All told, the group owns seven restaurants, with another three opening this year, according to the project proposal.

Dock Bradford LLC joins two other vendors at Bradford Beach: Volley Life LLC, which organizes the volleyball leagues and tournaments and the operator of Moosa’s burger shack on the south side of the property.

“Every dollar that our partners bring in helps the county Parks Department provide services that otherwise have been provided by decreasing tax levy over time,” said Lucas. “This is why we search out partners … to continue to fund the parks services in an era of dwindling tax levy support.”

The project would be funded solely by Dock Bradford, which is is making a contribution to the Milwaukee County Parks maintenance fund and is responsible for maintaining the leased portions of the property.

“We actually clean all the bathrooms and the beach itself every day,” said Hynes. “We clean the upstairs patio, the downstairs … so we view it as a partnership verses just a basic privatization because we’re provided a lot of the amenities and infrastructure for the beach itself.”

The Lakefront Development Advisory Commission will discuss the project during a informational public hearing on Jan. 27. However, the committee’s influence over the project is limited, said supervisor Sheldon Wasserman Tuesday, as the lease agreement gives the county parks department the right to approval.

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