Lake Mills will soon be officially seeking professional restaurateurs or food service providers who will offer family-style high quality and value-based menus to visitors to Sandy Beach Park.

The City Council at its Sept. 21 meeting approved a request for proposals (RFP) document for a restaurant/bar/concession facilities development and operations at the lakeside park. 

According to the document, interested parties would provide the potential design, construction, leasing, operation and financing of a new restaurant or concession facilities at Sandy Beach Park.

Two months ago, the council directed City Manager Steve Wilke to create an RFP document with the purpose of establishing a dining or concession business at the beach.

Wilke said the city will work with planning consultants and general engineers to ensure certain companies receive a copy of the RFP. In addition, he said some entities have contacted Lake Mills to request an RFP. Additionally, it is required to be printed in the local newspaper.

“Hopefully we see a ton of different proposals,” said Council Vice President Steve Fields said. “I think our constituents and people out in the community are the ones with the great ideas and we just need to work with them got the right fit for Sandy Beach.”

The proposed RFP indicates building construction would need to be started in 2022. Wilke said this aligns with other city construction projects “but I don’t think that would lead to construction on that timeline based on the types of proposals you would be seeing.”

Fields said just based on the needs to get permits for construction and supply chain slowdowns, it is likely the earliest the new restaurant would open is 2023, “even if they got going fairly quickly.”

As part of the outlined acceptance process, it is noted the city’s parks department has the ability to reject or accept any proposals. Wilke said the department would generally analyze the applications to determine what ones qualify. The parks department would then score and rank the submissions before making recommendations to the city council.

The city manager said the plans submitted through the RFP would likely be more conceptual than concrete.

“Once you select someone you like, then they really start working on the hard details,” Wilke said.

Approximately 16 months ago, the longstanding Sand Bar restaurant was razed, leaving a void at Sandy Beach. While food trucks have offered food options, the hours and menus have been limited.

The new restaurant is part of the beach redevelopment plan, which initially planned to have a new building at Sandy Beach in 2021. The now-demolished facility had been deemed structurally unsound several years ago.

“The building is falling apart no doubt about it,” former Sand Bar operator Jon Hering told the Leader in September 2019. “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…. It’s time for a new building to go in and something to change down there.”

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