New Self-Pour Taphouse Set to Open in Late Spring

By late spring, the former Peninsula Pub in Baileys Harbor won’t look like a regular bar anymore – and it won’t require the number of staff members that a bar typically does.

That’s because the building’s new owners, Todd and Holly Butenhoff, are turning the 7899 Cty A address into a self-pour establishment called the Tipsy Cow Taphouse.

“Being self service, we don’t require quite the amount of associates,” Todd said. “And from a workload perspective for the associates, it’s really about helping to create a great customer experience. It’s not going to be waiting tables.” 

Instead, an employee will check in customers at the front counter, where they will put down a credit card that will stay on file during their visit until they check out. In return, they’ll receive an RFID (radio-frequency identification) card, similar to those used to open hotel rooms.

Customers will then scan the card on the screen above each tap, which shows the name of the drink, where it’s from, its alcohol content and its price per ounce. Most of the taps will serve beer, but the Butenhoffs hope to include wine, seltzer and an old-fashioned on tap, too. They also plan to “keep everything really Wisconsin,” Todd said, by sourcing their drinks in the state, if not within the county.

Once scanned, the RFID card will activate the tap, with no bartender needed.

The new taphouse won’t require servers either. Instead, customers will order food with the RFID card and pick it up at a concession window after their name is called. The menu will be simple, focusing on comfort foods and a staple of the former Peninsula Pub: burgers.

The former Peninsula Pub – and the future Tipsy Cow Taphouse. Photo by Rachel Lukas.

“Everybody that we talked to locally was like, ‘Are you going to keep the hamburgers?’” Todd said.

The Butenhoffs closed on the sale of the former Peninsula Pub on Jan. 17 and started renovations the same week. They’re tearing out the bar, installing the tap wall, reflooring and painting. A new roll-up glass garage door will lead onto the deck, and a graveled area off the deck will include seating, fire pits and outdoor games. A contractor will handle the major projects, and the Butenhoffs will deal with the cosmetics.

The Tipsy Cow Taphouse will be Door County’s first self-pour taphouse, but similar establishments exist elsewhere in the state: the Geneva Taphouse in Lake Geneva and the Dirty Dog Taphaus in New Glarus, for example. The latter was where the couple got the notion to start their own version in Door County. 

When they approached their two adult children with the idea, both were surprised.

“They both initially thought we were crazy,” Holly said.

That’s because the Butenhoffs have never owned a business before. Todd worked in retail for 35 years, and Holly was in the nonprofit sector for 20. Both had comfortable jobs in Chicago before moving to Ellison Bay last month.

They said they were tired of the corporate world, and after Todd had survived cancer four times, they wanted to live somewhere with a slower pace, like the small towns where they had grown up. Both Todd and Holly were longtime visitors to Door County, so it seemed like a perfect place to live full time.

Once the couple made the decision to move and start a business, things came together quickly.

“We really didn’t even think about this until August,” Holly said – and five months later, here they are.

“We always felt welcomed, and we were outsiders at the time,” she said. 

They’re looking forward to becoming locals themselves, and to ushering in what Todd called “the next phase of supporting local breweries.”

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