Last July, Milwaukee lost one of its first and most-respected craft beer figures when Romans’ Pub owner and namesake Mike Romans passed away. His bar closed the following month, bringing the future of the building that had been home to Romans’ Pub since late 1978 into question.

In December, Mike’s brother Randy Romans—who inherited the property at 3475 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.—told Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he was in negotiations with a potential buyer who wished to reopen the longtime home of Romans’ Pub as a bar. Today, we learned the identity of the property’s soon-to-be-owners.

This spring will find the historic craft beer haven reopening as Busby’s. The new venture will be owned and operated by the husband-wife team of Rob and Foga Zellermayer, with an expected late April opening date.

Rob brings 30 years of experience from all corners of the industry. He’s currently the general manager of Ray’s Growler Gallery, a position he’ll be leaving soon in order to focus his efforts on running Busby’s full-time. Previously, he was a bartender at Sugar Maple, Palomino, Steny’s, and various other Milwaukee and Wauwatosa establishments. Along the way, he was also a sales rep for Beechwood Sales & Service, which is how he met and subsequently struck up a friendship with Romans’ owner.

“I was lucky to have gained his trust as a salesman and I never had to suffer his wrath,” Zellermayer says. “I always felt lucky that he, for whatever reason, always had trusted me and I got to learn a lot of the intimate secrets about how he successfully ran one of the hallmark craft beer bars in Milwaukee. It was a friendship, but also he was an educator in a way.”

Zellermayer tells Milwaukee Record he’ll be back behind the bar and handling day-to-day dealings at Busby’s. Foga will handle the bookkeeping and other behind the scenes operations. They also plan to eventually move into the apartment above the bar, where Mike lived out his days. In an effort to honor the legacy of Romans’ Pub and its quirky owner who famously displayed an “Open, Not Welcome” sign for customers to see, the Zellermayers aren’t planning on making any drastic changes.

“We’re going to do a little bit of cosmetic stuff—new toilets, new paint color on the ceiling, and add to the collection of historic pictures hanging on the wall celebrating the neighborhood—but beyond that, it’s going to be very recognizable to the Romans’ regulars.”

Like Romans did for more than 40 years, the new owners plan to put great care into what’s available on the 20 draft lines. Zellermayer also says customers can expect to find “a concise, but heavily-rotated wine list” and craft cocktails at the 99-capacity bar. Though it’s impossible to replace a guy like Mike Romans and a place like Romans’ Pub, Rob and Foga Zellermayer plan to be stewards of the property while also adding some personal touches of their own.

“The future of Busby’s is hopefully creating a place like Romans’ always was,” Zellermayer says. “In spite of Mike’s joking about the word ‘Welcome,’ the building does have a naturally welcoming energy about it. A welcoming space is really what we want to create.”

About The Author

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Co-Founder and Editor

Before co-founding Milwaukee Record, Tyler Maas wrote for virtually every Milwaukee publication (except Wassup! Magazine). He lives in Bay View and enjoys both stuff and things.