After years of hearing his neighbors begging for a restaurant on Silver Spring Drive, Whitefish Bay resident and restauranteur Paul Berlin decided to step up to the plate.
Berlin is one of two experienced restauranteurs behind The Bay, a full-service restaurant and bar that expects to fill the former El Guapo's spaceby March or April. With a slogan of "By the Bay for the Bay," Berlin said the restaurant "will be connected to the community through schools, groups, local businesses and ownership."
Berlin said he decided to start the restaurant because he and his neighbors were tired of not seeing a restaurant in Whitefish Bay.
"Being Bay residents, I want to be able to walk up Silver Spring and do all the things we want to do, but one of the things that is missing is a full-service restaurant," he said.
Berlin was the founder and chief operating officer at local Buffalo Wild Wings franchises, as well as Sabor, for 19 years. He started his career as a prep cook in Ohio, a waiter in Hyde Park, NY, and a general manager of a Tex-Mex restaurant in Ohio.
The co-owner and main operations manager of The Bay is James McMahon, who worked 15 years in daily operations at Buffalo Wild Wings and has more than 20 years of management experience.
Berlin said he doesn't plan to get rich on The Bay, which he sees more as a "passion project" and a community gathering place for Whitefish Bay residents.
"We're really looking at this as a Bay restaurant," he said. "We feel there's enough need in Whitefish Bay that it will be over 80 percent of our sales. We're not trying to draw from all over the metropolitan area — it's not a realistic goal."
Berlin and McMahon are expected to sign a five-year lease on the 5,000-square-foot space owned by New Land Enterprises.
The business received a $42,500 retail incentive grant from the village's Community Development Authority Thursday morning. Because most of the restaurant infrastructure is already in place, they are focusing mostly on aesthetic renovations.
The restaurant will be backed by 15 local investors that are connected in the community. Berlin said the investors are not only providing financial backing, but will also assist with networking and helping them build the business. The business also plans to sponsor community events and partner with local organizations for fundraisers.
The Bay plans on having outdoor seating on the east side of the building, and they have already begun preliminary discussions with The Mandel Group about how to work together on their plans to renovate the Consaul Commons walkway area.
“Together we’re going to bring to the city something that is going to be just spectacular,” Berlin said.
Berlin said The Bay does not have a specific menu theme, but will instead try to be an approachable, affordable restaurant for local families. The restaurant plans to be open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
A wine and tapas restaurant plans to open on the other side of the commons area, in the former Cutters barbershop storefront.
John Stuhlmacher, chairman of the Whitefish Bay Business Improvement District, said the two new restaurants are exciting news for Silver Spring Drive, and the BID continues to work toward filling the rest of the empty spaces on the street.
"Right now, when people are out shopping, and they ask for a sit-down restaurant for dinner, we have to recommend someplace out of the business district," he said. "Now, our customers will have great local restaurants to eat at, and it will really give them a reason to make a day in the Bay."