New owner, new life for a longtime Belgium tavern

Once an occasional patron of Bic’s Place, Kyle Simpson bought the bar and will reopen it as Kyote’s Bar & Grill after renovations are finished

KYOTE’S BAR & GRILL owner Kyle Simpson stood behind the bar of the former Bic’s Place in Belgium. Simpson bought the property last month and has been busy updating the popular establishment, which is expected to open early November. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
JOE POIRIER
Ozaukee Press staff

 

Kyle Simpson used to stop at the former Bic’s Place when traveling from Milwaukee to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan several times a year to visit family. Now, he has turned the longtime Village of Belgium hangout into Kyote’s Bar & Grill.

“I would stop here occasionally when I would be going to Michigan because it’s really one of the last places to grab a burger and beer before you reach Sheboygan or Green Bay,” he said. “I’ve always felt at home here, and now I own it.”

Simpson took ownership of the bar and restaurant at 129 Spring St., at the beginning of September, one day after Bic’s Place closed.

Since then, he’s been updating the building and plans to be open by the first week of November.

The updates include new lighting and ceiling tiles, fresh paint, reupholstered furniture and bar maintenance. He did most of the work himself, which, with the exception of a fall from a ladder, has been rewarding, he said.

“It’s a good feeling to get hurt at your own bar,” he joked.

Starting out as a dishwasher in Marquette, Mich., 13 years ago, the 34-year-old said he wanted to own a bar by the time he was 40.

“I’ve always been attached to the service industry. I knew I wanted to open a bar, but I didn’t know where,” he said. “When I found out Bic’s Place was available, there were a lot of nights I would sit in bed thinking about buying it.”

He once considered opening a bar in Milwaukee, but believes the city is saturated with that type of industry.

“There’s literally a bar on every corner. It’s great for drinkers but not for business,” he said.

Simpson previously held managerial positions with Levy Restaurants and Bartolotta Restaurant Group, where he had the opportunity to work with the Milwaukee Bucks for several seasons and at trendy places like The Rumpus Room and Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee.

“I’m not going to be a high-end restaurant. I want this to be a place where you can come and relax. I want to cater to the people around the area,” he said.

A couple of weeks ago, Simpson became one of the locals after taking residence a block away from the restaurant. He said living in Belgium reminds him of his childhood in the UP.

“I can sleep peacefully at night without a plane flying over my head,” he said.

Simpson said he keeps Kyote’s front door open when he’s working on the renovations and has had a number of passers-by stop in to tell him stories about the restaurant.

“Everyone that I talk to is saying it’s nice to get a new breath of life for this place,” Simpson said. “I’ve opened a couple of restaurants before and it’s all about selling the experience ... getting them to come in and come back.”

One of the ways Simpson plans to bring in more business is by offering daily specials, which will include pork belly, macaroni and cheese and specialty tacos.

He also plans to have burgers and pizza as regular staples on the menu.

Simpson is seeking to hire eight employees, but has been having trouble pulling local talent together because there is a smaller pool of cooks and bartenders in the area.

“It’s different in Milwaukee because there are so many bars and a lot of people in the service industry,” he said. “I’ve been posting the job opportunities on Craigslist, but haven’t heard much interest.”

Luckily, Simpson has a number of friends in the service industry who have offered to help in the meantime.

“They say all it will cost me is a nice steak dinner. I’m really lucky to have good friends,” he said.

Some of his buddies work at Fire Ridge Golf Club in the Town of Grafton, which is where Simpson’s nickname, Kyote, originated.

The kitchen staff there joked that he laughs like a coyote.

“The name has stuck with me ever since, so it seemed natural to name the bar after myself,” he said.

Simpson plans to offer the restaurant for community events and use its indoor volleyball court as an event space. He recently spent seven hours power washing the court and has added new sand. He said he will start a six-week volleyball league before the holidays and also wants to host a monthly wrestling tournament.

Starting in February, he plans to host a monthly concert series outdoors.

“It will be cold, but that’s kind of the point. I want people to be dancing and rocking to good music with their mittens on,” he said.

An avid hockey fan, Simpson also has his sights set on adding a skating rink in the back of the restaurant for youngsters.

“I don’t want this to be just a bar,” he said. “I want it to be a place where people can take their kids and spend family time together.”

If things go well, Simpson wants to renovate the outdoor patio and cleanup the two outdoor volleyball courts for the summer.

He said it’s tough opening a restaurant during the winter months, but expects there will be a lot of interest from patrons.

When looking back on his decision to start his own place, Simpson said the timing couldn’t have been better.

“It was one of those opportunities where the stars aligned. It happens about once in a lifetime and you have to seize that moment,” he said. “If things work well, maybe I’ll beat my old goal and have a second bar by the time I’m 40.”

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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