Vacant beach house becomes boat rental biz

Brittingham boat house on Monona Bay unused for years

MADISON, Wis. - A vacant Madison haven for drunks is scheduled to reopen this summer as a boat rental business and café.

The Brittingham Beach House on Monona Bay has been vacant for about 15 years, but a crew from Wingra Boats in Madison has moved in and has started cleanup.

"I've been looking at this park for quite a while," said Tyler Leeper, who owns Wingra Boats. "Seeing the energy around the neighborhood, with new development, new families coming into the neighborhood, it seemed like a good time to expand activities over to Brittingham Park."

Leeper said he's scheduled a soft opening on Memorial Day weekend, and plans to have kayaks and paddleboards available. A café will serve coffee, ice cream, gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, and a small revolving menu, he said.

Leeper signed an eight-year lease with the City of Madison on the city-owned building.

The plan for the beach house won over city leaders last week, despite opposition from motor boat operators concerned that Monona Bay would become too crowded, said Sue Ellingson, who represents the area on the Madison Common Council.


"The park really needs this activity, and I think there's enough room on the water to accommodate everybody," Ellingson said. "What's going to be there -- you can't even say a percent better because we're at zero (percent) now. It's infinitely better."

Leeper said the grand opening is scheduled for June 8.

His crew has been powerwashing and painting the inside of the beach house, including bathrooms that were full of cobwebs.

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