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Braun puts name on Wisconsin eatery

Braun puts name on Wisconsin eatery

MILWAUKEE -- Add restaurateur to the list of Brewers slugger Ryan Braun's off-the-field endeavors.

He already has a clothing line and wooden bats that bear his initials and uniform number, plus a gig as an airline spokesperson. Now he's lending his name and his time to the Ryan Braun Tavern and Grill, an upscale restaurant set to open in Lake Geneva, Wis., before the end of the year.

A group of investors led by Madison lawyer Patrick Sweeney finalized a licensing deal with Braun and Major League Baseball this month. The group is spending more than $1 million on upgrades to a former Mexican restaurant at 430 Broad St. in Lake Geneva, a resort community about 50 miles southwest of Milwaukee's Miller Park, and the idea is to open for business within 6-8 weeks. Braun would then host a grand opening when the Brewers return to Milwaukee in April.

The concept could spread to another town near you, Sweeney said. The group is already looking for a downtown Milwaukee location to open before the end of 2010, and is eyeing other locations in suburban Milwaukee and Madison.

"We think we have the right name to get people in the door, but if you don't have great food, they're not coming back. So we're focusing on putting together a great menu," Sweeney said. "We think we have the right concept."

It's an American grill concept with entrees ranging mostly from $8-20, plus a few higher-priced steaks. The menu will feature made-from-scratch choices with a focus on locally-grown and produced food, Sweeney said.

Braun knows the Lake Geneva area well from off-day fishing trips with teammate J.J. Hardy. He got a first-hand look at the progress of the restaurant on Sept. 6, the same day Braun and his teammates executed their now-famous celebration of Prince Fielder's 12th-inning home run that beat the San Francisco Giants.

"He's a very impressive young man," said Sweeney, who was well-aware that Braun signed a contract with the Brewers that keeps him in Milwaukee through 2015. "He's involved in the development of this idea more than you can imagine. ...

"As he told me, when you play baseball, you're always one pitch away from being out of baseball. It jumped out to me right away what an astute businessman he is, how he was able to get his arms around what he envisioned in terms of design, ambience. It kind of blew me away."

Braun spends his offseason actively involved in Remetee, a line of clothing based near his home in L.A., and this summer, he launched a line of "RB8" maple bats with Canadian-based Sam Bat. Braun is also a spokesperson for AirTran, and his picture appears on billboards in Milwaukee.

Braun will make a number of appearances at the restaurant next year, and he will also emcee a charity golf outing in Lake Geneva, Sweeney said.

The Brewers drafted Braun in the first round in 2005 and he broke into the Majors in 2007, winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award. The following summer, he signed a new, eight-year contract that guarantees $45 million through 2015 and bought out the first two of Braun's free agent seasons.

The deal might have paid as much as $51 million had Braun qualified as a "Super 2" player in arbitration this year. But, as expected, he fell just short of the cut-off. Braun has two years and 129 days of Major League service; he needed two years and 141 days to qualify.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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