And just like that they are done. It’s the end of an era. The Sand Bar is closed and not just for the season.
The iconic local restaurant at Sandy Beach has been operated by Jon and Sarah Hering for 27 years and their last day was Sept. 2.
“I chose not to renew my lease,” said Jon Hering siting health reasons for the tough decision. “I physically can’t do it anymore. I’ve had seven leg surgeries.
The city owns the building the Sand Bar is located in.
Regarding the city’s plans to renovate Sandy Beach Park over the next several years Hering said he doesn’t know what the city is planning for the building.
“My lease was up for this year. I’m not sure I want to be back. It was very unclear what they wanted out of me,” he said of the city.
The Herings’ also own Hering’s Fish Bowl here in Lake Mills, Hering’s Towne Inn in Jefferson, Lake Ripley Inn in Cambridge and various rental properties, but the Sand Bar was the most hands on of their businesses. Jon also still works part-time at UPS.
“When we first started the place, we had four employees and now we have 80. The Sand Bar is a beast to keep up with,” he said.
It’s also hard to find seasonal help.
“My daughter comes back and runs the kitchen for me and she said she would continue to do that as long as I need her.”
“It was my choice. I’ve been through a lot of the City Council and Planning Commission meetings and I don’t like the direction its going so I’m not going be a part of it.”
Hering says his wife would love to stay and continue their work at the restaurant.
“I sat down with Steve Wilke (city manager) and said I just don’t want to renew my lease.”
Business has really picked up over the years and Hering says there is a lot of interest in the property after it is rebuilt.
“It was clear to me the city wanted to open up the biding. I just didn’t want to get into a contest with them and overpay. I would rather just walk away.”
Hering says he feels it’s very important to have someone who understands the City of Lake Mills and the history behind it at the restaurant.
“They aren’t going to have that with someone from the outside.”
That kind of connection will be missed more than anything.
Labor Day was the last day the business was open. Their lease ends at the end of October.
“I need those two months to get everything just cleaned up and out of there.”
The city has a multi-phase plan for Sandy Beach over several years that is yet to be approved by the Lake Mills City Council. The first phase involves relocating the boat launch and work on that plan by the city is ongoing. Plans for the restaurant were slated for phase two of the plan.
“The building is falling apart no doubt about it,” Hering said. “It was condemned a couple of years ago and they wanted to tear it down. We shared the cost 50/50 with the city for the upgrades. It was good for another 5 to 10 years. You can walk across the floor and feel soft spots. It’s time for a new building to go in and something to change down there.”
The decision to leave the Sand Bar behind was a tough one but Hering said its time.
“We are going out on top and that’s very important to me.”