By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Oct 29, 2009 at 12:58 PM

After much talk about the future of Von Trier, 2235 N. Farwell Ave., John and Cindy Sidoff -- owners of Hooligan's, 2017 E. North Ave., told today that they have purchased the building from Mark Eckert.

Eckert's last day will be Friday, Oct. 30. The bar will close at 11 p.m. after a little going-away party with regulars.

The Sidoffs hope to reopen in December, but the launch date will depend on the speed at which the tavern's licensing is wrapped up.

"It's a good transition," said Eckert. "John knew the original owners (of Von Trier), and me and John and Cindy have been great friends for years. So, it's a natural progression. When I decided to retire to get out of the business, I wanted my legacy to live on. I know John, I know what kind of operator he is, I know what kind of people he and Cindy are. You can walk in there and it's still going to be Von Trier. I firmly believe it will be a good thing, because I know that John will carry on the tradition. And he knows the neighborhood, he's an institution on this side of town." 

Eckert had closed the bar when an offer by Diablos Rojos to buy Von Trier seemed like a done deal. When it instead fell apart earlier this month, Eckert reopened the bar a few days later. Although he hadn't been among those originally making offers on Von Trier, John Sidoff said that when the Diablos Rojos offer fell apart, he became interested.

"I was looking forward to the Diablos Rojos moving in across the street because I think they're really good operators and I think they would have added a new element to the East Side," said Sidoff. "I was really worried that somebody might come in there and turn it into a kid place. It deserves to be what it is right now. The last thing I wanted was to see the place turned into a $15 all you can drink place.

"So, after that deal fell through -- I was getting older and I had really no interest in owning another place -- but I decided to take a look at it. I've always loved the place, it's a place that I go to a couple times a week and I thought that it would be a nice match for me."

John Sidoff -- who is vice president of the East Side Business Improvement District -- said that he intends to keep Hooligan's and Von Trier entirely separate and that he's hired a "seasoned manager" and team to run Von Trier. The Sidoffs also own Century Center, a strip mall on North Farwell Avenue, a block north of North Avenue.

Von Trier will remain much the same, although Sidoff said that the place will be cleaned and painted and will be open seven days a week from 4 p.m.

He said he has no plans to add food -- although Von Trier does have a small kitchen -- but there will be catered food during happy hour andwill use outside caterers for private parties and banquets, which he hopes to highlight. The biggest change will be the addition of at least one big-screen plasma TV.

"So that we don't have to shut down during Packers games," explained Sidoff, who added that the screen or screens might show old black and white films. "We are not going to be a sporting venue but it doesn't make sense not to make that available. People don't have to worry that we'll have SportsCenter on all day."

Popcorn will be back, too, he said.

"We're looking at being known as the premier German bar, but not just German, but a great cocktail lounge," Sidoff said, noting that Ritter's, which preceded Von Trier in the space, was known as one of the city's best cocktail lounges.

"We're going to specialize in a combination of European beers and a lot of micro beers. We are going add a large, large selection of both imported and micro beers in bottles. We're gonna increase the wine selection and try to do a bigger wine business. We're going to reintroduce ice cream drinks to the East Side. Maybe a flaming drink or two."

Sidoff said he remains a strong believer in the East Side and he hopes a reinvigorated Von Trier will be an asset.

"The East Side to me is still one of the best areas of the city, a great entertainment area, property values here are real strong," he said. "We want it to be what it used to be: a great neighborhood cocktail lounge ... a great selection of beer and for years and years it was known as people's first date place. And we just want that to happen again.

"When you brought somebody to town, there were certain places you took 'em. You took them to the Safe House, maybe to Ratzsch's, but if you wanted a drink you took them to Von Trier."

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.