Hooligan's owners buy Von Trier
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 OnMilwaukee.com 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."
Running a succesful bar can't be easy. Not to mention trying to rejuvenate a Milwaukee staple. The thing is you can't worry about pleasing all the "regs". After all they haven't made it successful in years! At the same time the you don't want to lose the identity tha made it a great place for a long time. Here's some suggestion from a guy who can't wait to have a classy bar that you can still have roudy Saturday night with the guys: Forget the windows and concentrate on lighting. Bring in small plates with "Hooligan's Midas touch" Hire and train an upbeat staff that loves to laugh Market hard to 30 somethings who will be patrons for years. Don't sweat the skinny pant, if it's not Riverwest you're working for the man crew. $1 PBRs don't keep those lights on. Proper lighting instead of large street windows may help.
The big window idea is wrong, wrong, wrong. As a former employee, that was one thing I loved: the outside world couldn't get in. Here's what Von Trier needs: A good cleaning, new tables and umbrellas in the biergarten, a new sound system and solid music programming, a little bit of food offered, and the most important thing of all - AN ENERGETIC, ENTHUSIASTIC STAFF! Make the place FUN again. Von Trier is perfect for every holiday - cozy, old world, etc. Get the fireplace working in the Bitburger Stube! I hope that John and Cindy have the best of luck, they are both pretty nice people.
Awesome! John & Cindy, please, please, please bring the Tom & Jerry back for the Holidays. Pretty Pretty please!
Yay!! I agree with many of the others - SO glad it's NOT going to be another TrocaHollander, or another RCs R Us! Nice job, John!!
Cocktail lounges don't have "BIG front windows". The idea is to be able to escape from the outside environment and enter one that is entirely different. No new windows please.
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