Heritage helped Milwaukee land a Hofbräuhaus

The decision to bring the fifth Hofbräuhaus in the nation to the Milwaukee market largely hinged on the city’s rich brewing culture.

“We identified Milwaukee as a good site for a Hofbräuhaus location, and we based that on Milwaukee’s love of beer, their reputation with beer, eastern European ties, the growing attractions (and) nearby universities,” said Jeff Ritson, president of The Bistro Group, which is based in Cincinnati.

Retail attractions in Glendale and popular Milwaukee attractions such as the Milwaukee Riverwalk and Miller Park also enhanced the city’s appeal as the next Hofbräuhaus site, Ritson said.

The Bistro Group, which is approaching its 25th anniversary, has launched its other Hofbräuhaus locations in Las Vegas, Nev; Newport, Ky.; Pittsburg, Pa.; and Chicago, Ill.

But while these four restaurants are each independently owned and operated, The Bistro Group will own Milwaukee’s Hofbräuhaus.

Another stakeholder, the Cincinnati Restaurant Group, will be a minority owner and a host of outside investors will also take part ownership.

According to Bob Monnat, a member of the Friends of the Bavarian Soccer Club LLC, which currently owns the site of the former Bavarian Inn, the Cincinnati Restaurant Group had the original interest in bringing a Hofbräuhaus to Milwaukee.

The company has been exploring the idea of bringing a Hofbräuhaus to the former Bavarian Inn for almost 10 years and had made proposals for such a project, he said. When the Friends of the Bavarian Soccer Group LLC acquired the site of the former Bavarian Inn in 2011, following financial struggles of the previous owner, the United German Societies, the Cincinnati Restaurant Group opened up another dialogue about its vision for the property.

Although the Cincinnati Restaurant Group explored the possibility of implanting a Hofbräuhaus onto the grounds of the former Pabst Brewery redevelopment site in Milwaukee, the company ultimately decided that the 21,000-square-foot space housing the former Bavarian Inn was the best fit.

“You have a German chalet building the exact correct size for a Hofbräuhaus location, and you’re in a heavily Germanic city,” Monnat said.

The Cincinnati Group secured The Bistro Group as an operating partner and investor. The Bistro Group has also taken over day-to-day management of the project.

In addition to creating a beer garden, microbrewery and authentic Hofbräuhaus dining room, the Hofbräuhaus will have event space as well as a traditional Munich beer hall with room for a live band to entertain patrons.

Much of the interior and exterior of the current building will be renovated to suit the style of the original Hofbräuhaus, which dates back to 1589.

In terms of ownership of the former Bavarian Inn and Old Heidelberg Park where the building is anchored, the Friends of the Bavarian Soccer Club LLC will legally divide the land and create separate parcels, Monnat said.

The Bistro Group along with the Cincinnati Restaurant Group and other investors will acquire the former Bavarian Inn. The Friends of the Bavarian Soccer Club LLC will retain ownership of Old Heidelberg Park and will lease the space to the new investment group for the Hofbräuhaus’ beer garden.

The Friends of the Bavarian Soccer Club LLC will also retain ownership of the nearby soccer fields where the Bavarian Soccer Club will continue running its youth and adult soccer programs as it has since the 1940s.

According to Ritson, The Bistro Group aims to open the Hofbräuhaus by June of next year.

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