East side bar Von Trier is getting a new owner
Von Trier, the beloved German bar on the east side, is getting a new owner who plans to keep the tavern intact.
Mark Zierath expects to take over the bar at 2235 N. Farwell Ave. in mid-May from current owners John and Cindy Sidoff, who have owned Von Trier since November 2009. Zierath owns Jackson's Blue Ribbon Pub at 1203 N. 10th St. and the coming Ella's Public House in the Town of Genesee, due in early May.
“I’ve loved that place for 30 years," Zierath said of Von Trier. "I’m just really happy and excited to get in there.”
Zierath said his father was lifelong friends with Ron Zbleski, a former owner of Von Trier, and would take him along to the tavern when visiting. "I have an emotional attachment to the place," he said.
John Sidoff, who said he's been in the bar business for 42 years, is turning 68 next month. "It was just about time for me, and it’s a really good fit. He’s a really good operator, and he loves the place," Sidoff said of Zierath.
"The concept, the name, the look, the feel, everything is staying the same," Zierath said. The kitchen, though, will be expanded to accommodate a bigger menu, including sandwiches and a Friday fish fry of beer-battered cod, plus perch or bluegill, and a weekly fish special.
Expanding the kitchen would mean either moving two bathrooms or giving over the enclosed deck to the project. Von Trier would retain its beer garden.
"I truly, honestly believe that place has become kind of iconic in Milwaukee," Zierath said. "I believe it should be left intact; it’s such a beautiful place."
The Sidoffs backed off their plans in summer 2017 to turn Von Trier into a midcentury-style cocktail lounge after patrons and area residents objected, even signing a petition to keep the tavern unchanged. (The building had housed a cocktail lounge called Rieder's before it became Von Trier in 1978.)
Instead, the Sidoffs refreshed the bar by putting in a new sound system, lighting, mahogany bar top, chairs and tabletops, but kept the German theme and the building's stained glass windows, carved wood and other Teutonic details.
That includes an 1890s wrought-iron-and-antler chandelier by Milwaukee craftsman Cyril Colnik that originally hung in beer baron Frederic Pabst's mansion on the near west side.
"It’s a turnkey deal. John literally will operate one day and I’ll walk in and operate the next," Zierath said.
"I think John and Cindy Sidoff did a great thing for the city of Milwaukee, to keep that place intact," he added.