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Erv Kazik Built Tavern Into Oak Creek Landmark

Kazik, 75, passed away Tuesday after a battle with liver disease.

In 1979, Erv Kazik just wanted to create a good place to go for a burger and a beer.

"It got out of hand from there," said his daughter, Danielle Baerwald, with a smile.

Success for his now-iconic Oak Creek restaurant, , came immediately, Baerwald said. Her father had developed a following after working at the Chalet, which was next door to Erv's where the Walgreen's now stands, as well as at De Salvo's in Cudahy and Schneider's in downtown Milwaukee.

In almost no time, Erv's Mug became a destination, famous for its fish fry, selection of beer and hometown feel.

Kazik, 75, died Tuesday after a year-and-a-half battle with liver disease. A memorial is set for May 2.

The building at 130 W. Ryan Road was a "dump" with an attached apartment when Kazik bought it, Baerwald said.

But Erv, who , had a vision. He built everything from the ground up -- adding the kitchen, bar, seating area and everything else you see today. The fish fry started in 1980 on the suggestion of one of Kazik's friends and is now a staple.

Baerwald basically grew up there, beginning employment when she was in high school. She became owner after Erv retired in 2004.

"I grew to love this business, despite my parents best efforts to steer me in another direction," she wrote in a history of the bar on its website. "Now, quite a few years and a law degree later, this is where I want to be."

Baerwald said her father made the restaurant and hospitality business his life. He and her mother, Barb, would often travel to taverns in the Chicago area, figuring that what was hot in Chicago would eventually make its way to Milwaukee, and he wanted to be in on it first.

Customers will probably remember how Erv like to give people a hard time, Baerwald said.

But there was a lot more beneath the surface.

"He had a really big heart," Baerwald said. "He acted tough, but he was really a softie."

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