Brewers outfielder lending his name to Lake Geneva eatery
"He has been a part of the new restaurant every step of the way, from the creative design to the interior and exterior look to even the menu. He wanted to be a part of it all," said Nez Balelo, his Los Angeles-based agent.
The Ryan Braun Tavern and Grill is slated for a grand opening in April in the former Cactus Club building at 430 Broad St., said Patrick Sweeney, a Madison-based lawyer who is leading the group of investors.
Braun is working with business executives from Lake Geneva, Milwaukee, Madison and Chicago, Sweeney said.
The group developed a concept for an American bar and grill with good food, reasonable prices and a comfortable atmosphere, Sweeney said. The group wants to open other locations, too, and is looking at Milwaukee, Madison and the Green Bay-Appleton-Oshkosh area, he said.
They recruited Braun as a way to help get people in the door, Sweeney said.
"We could spend a lot of money on advertising, marketing and promotions," he said, "but that's not really our expertise and that doesn't have much sizzle, much pizzazz. So we thought we would go after an elite celebrity …
"When we started talking about the concept and lending his name to the concept, in just a few days, he did enough homework to come back with a series of incredibly intelligent questions (about the plan)."
Balelo said Braun enjoys the Lake Geneva area, has taken several fishing trips on the lake and looked at buying a home in the area, he said.
Balelo declined to disclose how much Braun is investing in the project. He said Braun will be involved in running the restaurant but will leave the day-to-day operations to his other partners. Sweeney said Braun will visit the restaurant several times throughout the year and will sponsor a charity golf outing at a local course.
Braun, 25, just completed his third season with the Brewers and recently signed an eight-year, $45 million contract. He is considered one of the top young players in Major League Baseball.
The restaurant will not be his first off-the-field endeavor. He has a clothing line and a line of wooden bats that bear his initials and uniform number, plus he is a spokesman for an airline.