Welcome to our new web site!

To give our readers a chance to experience all that our new website has to offer, we have made all content freely avaiable, through October 1, 2018.

During this time, print and digital subscribers will not need to log in to view our stories or e-editions.

Bee’s Knees Taproom brings craft beer, service, and food to Fayette

Justin Addison, Editor/Publisher
Posted 2/7/23

Fayette beer enthusiasts are abuzz with anticipation about a new restaurant and taproom downtown. Bee’s Knees Taproom at the Nest opened on Tuesday, February 7, on South Main Street, half a …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Bee’s Knees Taproom brings craft beer, service, and food to Fayette


Fayette beer enthusiasts are abuzz with anticipation about a new restaurant and taproom downtown. Bee’s Knees Taproom at the Nest opened on Tuesday, February 7, on South Main Street, half a block from the downtown square.

The restaurant and brewery held a soft opening on Friday and Saturday for invited customers to help train staff before opening to the public on Tuesday.

The new restaurant will feature a popular menu with pizza, burgers, pasta, and sandwiches and will serve a variety of proprietary craft beer.

Pam and Chris Byars opened the original Bee’s Knees almost eight years ago in Versailles. Chris specializes in brewing the Bee’s Knees brand beer. Pam runs the restaurant. Both do brisk business at the original location.

The restaurant was initially opened by someone else. Chris left his corporate job to take ownership of the brewery side and would eventually partner with the original owner on the restaurant side.

“I’d been home brewing for quite a few years before that,” Chris explained. “I helped him set up the system and got the brewery going while he ran the restaurant side. That evolved into Pam taking over the restaurant.”

The Byars bought into half of the restaurant in 2017 and became sole owners of the business in 2020. The new location in Fayette marks their first expansion.

The building was remodeled in 2018 by brothers Max, Vince, Hank, and Alex Hilderbrand. In January 2019, they opened The Nest, which became a popular restaurant and bar. The brothers sold the business in August 2021 when Max graduated from Central Methodist University and began a teaching career. New owner Kyle Imgarten then re-launched it as “Dee Dee’s Honkey Tonk,” later re-branded as “Drew’s,” which closed last year.

Bee’s Knees Taproom at the Nest tribute to the building’s past.

Pam said the name was inspired by conversations with members of the Fayette community. “They’d say, ‘where are you guys putting it? I’d tell them at Drew’s. Nobody knew. But when I said, ‘The Nest,’ everybody knew.”

Also, since “The Nest” was named in reference to both the Falcons and Eagles, the high school and CMU mascots, adding the name to the new location felt appropriate.

“It just seemed perfect because of the high school mascot as well as CMU,” Chris said. “We thought we would carry on that tradition.”

Chris said he named the business “Bee’s Knees” because it’s an old idiom and the company was founded in an old building. Both the building in Fayette and the original location in Versailles were built in the early 1900s.

The term, a euphemism for “excellence,” is thought to have originated in the 1920s, along with other similar sayings such as “the cat’s pajamas” and “the flea’s eyebrows.”

The Fayette location also inherited a historic bar, which originally was located inside the Hotel Governor, built in the 1940s in Jefferson City. 

Dude McMillan, proprietor of the legendary Fayette bar McMillan’s Café, lovingly known as Mac’s, purchased the bar sometime in the 1990s when the old hotel was converted into an office building. The bar was housed on the northern wall of the “second side” of Mac’s. Eventually, that north side of Mac’s became the south room of The Nest, which is now Bee’s Knees. The Byars moved the bar to the main room of the new business.

The Rathskeller Bar in the Hotel Governor was also frequently called the “third chamber” because many legislators would meet there after session. And because of that, it had also earned the not-so-respectable nickname “Passion Pit.”

“If that wood could talk, I’m sure it could tell stories,” Pam said.

Invited by Fayette Main Street

The Byars had previously visited Fayette to watch their now son-in-law, Cooper Wilson, play football for the CMU Eagles. They also attended his graduation last May. A few months later, an invitation by Fayette Main Street, Inc. helped convince them Fayette was the right place for a second location.

“We actually sat in here and ate when it was The Nest,” Pam said. The Byars had been in town for a game and unknowingly had dinner in the very place they would one day own.

In 2019, the Byars discussed the potential of opening a second location. After buying out their partner and enlarging the original restaurant in 2020, they began to once again consider an expansion.

“The Fayette Main Street organization approached us,” Pam explained.

Wendy Sheehan, a member of Fayette Main Street, is a frequent customer of the original restaurant in Versailles.

“We had gotten to know her. She asked us to come up and meet with Main Street. They had some places they wanted to show us. We had no intention of doing anything. It was just a good motorcycle ride.” said Pam.

That motorcycle ride turned into so much more.

“You could just see the excitement from that group,” Pam said. “They put together a great presentation. You could see a transformation happening in the community, very similar to how we feel Versailles was seven or eight years ago. We felt like it was the right time and right place.”

That visit took place in September. On November 18, the Byars officially closed on the building. They have been working five days a week ever since to transform it into the new Bee’s Knees.

Fayette Main Street’s former executive director, Mike Dimond, was not originally part of the package but has since become a part of the Bee’s Knees family. Mr. Dimond resigned from Main Street in December to step in as general manager of the Fayette location.

“Our biggest concern was finding a general manager that can run the place,” Chris said. “Mike was perfect for the role. That was a blessing right there to have him right out of the gate early on.”

The restaurant will employ around 30 people, trained in what the Byars call “Bee’s Knees culture.”

“We really focus on having good quality service and a clean presentation,” said Pam.

Chris said having the CMU campus a few hundred yards up the street was an exciting factor in the decision to open the second location here. 

“We felt like there was still room for more opportunities for restaurants here and places for friends and family to hang out,” Chris said. “And a place for the college kids to hang out in the evening.”

The news of the restaurant’s opening has generated excitement in the community. “Everywhere we go, people ask us, ‘when are you opening? We’re so excited.’ It’s fun for us to feel the excitement from the community,” Pam said.

Beer and Food

The new location will feature the exact same menu as the original, highlighted by pizza, burgers, sandwiches, pasta, salads, and appetizers. It will also have up to 10 Bee’s Knees craft beers on tap, along with a couple of domestics and a full bar.

The beer will continue to be brewed in Versailles and poured on draft in Fayette. Six-packs will also be available for purchase. Varieties include the best-selling Electric Nectar Blonde Ale, followed by a stout, a German hefeweizen, and their popular Hillbilly Hammer IPA. 

Bee’s Knees regularly produces between 15 and 20 craft beer varieties, with rotating seasonal brews and unique one-offs. Recent experiments include flavors inspired by Girl Scouts cookies. Chris ensures their facility in Versailles will be able to handle the increased volume needed to supply the new location.

“We want to be focused on people just gathering together and having a wide variety of options,” said Chris.

The Byars also run a cattle ranch in Fortuna, about 12 miles from Versailles, which is the source of the beef served in the restaurant.

The Byars refer to the burgers as “tank to table.” All of the grains left over from the brewing process are fed to the cattle. 

“They go crazy over those spent beer grains,” Pam said. 

A local butcher produces the hamburgers that are sold in the restaurant.

“We call it the Brew House Burger,” Chris said. “They’ve gone over really well.”

Now open for regular business every day except for Monday, hour will be 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to midnight Thursdays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday. The later weekend hours will accommodate CMU students. However, hours are tentative and subject to change.

The second room is expected to open to customers in about a month. It will feature booth and table seating, with some high-top tables.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here