, a longtime staple on Milwaukee's East Side, will reopen next year under new ownership.
Pie Inc., which owns and operates Bay View's Honeypie Café
, Honeypie Bakeshop, Palomino, SmallPie, and soon-to-open Honeypie in Chicago, has taken over the restaurant, with plans to resume operations in winter 2022, according to a news release.
Comet has been closed since July 2020
, having struggled financially under the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent operating restrictions. Shortly after the closure, former ownership group Mojofuco Inc. was criticized by employees who claimed they were fired on the last day of operations after raising concerns about unsafe work conditions and faulty kitchen equipment.
At the time, Mojofuco co-owner Leslie Montemurro said the concerns were taken seriously and Comet would remain closed until it could operate at full capacity and necessary repairs could be made. A timeline wasn't provided.
Now as Pie Inc. takes the helm, the group's founder and CEO Valeri Lucks
is returning to her roots. She and her brother Adam Lucks operated Comet from 2005 to 2015, partnering with Montemurro and Scott Johnson, who opened the concept in 1995 as a neighborhood coffee shop. The Lucks helped expand Comet Cafe into a full restaurant and bar.
"It was my first restaurant," said Valeri Lucks in the release. "Adam developed a menu championing locally sourced and scratch-made comfort food and craft beers at a time when all of that was still new to the industry."
Lucks added that her late father helped build the bar and her brother and friends built the booths, counter and tables.
When Comet reopens this winter, its food and drink offerings will be largely unchanged. Pie from the Honeypie Bakeshop will also be back on the menu.
"Bringing Comet back into our fold is an exciting step in our growth," said Lucks. "Comet means a lot to us personally. So many of us in the company got our start there. We have Comet in our DNA."
Pie Inc. launched in 2015, and Lucks was sole owner from 2018 through last month, when executive chef Derek Petersen became partner and co-owner. Petersen started his culinary career in 2006 as a dishwasher and line cook at Comet Cafe, before working as a chef at Honeypie. He honed his cooking skills in other roles such as sous chef at La Merenda in Walker's Point and private chef in Colorado.
Earlier this year, Pie Inc. transitioned from a traditional 'tipped-employee wage' to a pay structure based on minimum wage with a fair, non-discriminatory tip pool for all employees.