Catherine Jozwik

Bay View’s White House Tavern Coming Back

Allison Meinhardt is working to open new business in historic building.

By - Sep 27th, 2019 02:25 pm
Kneisler's White House Tavern Building. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Kneisler’s White House Tavern Building. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

After being closed for nearly two years, the Bay View building that housed the landmark White House Tavern, has a new owner, and likely a new tenant.

In June, Allison Meinhardt purchased the two-story building at 2900 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., originally a Schlitz Brewing tied house and one of Milwaukee’s oldest taverns, from HCI Properties.

What’s she planning? Meinhardt stated in a recent email that she was “very busy with renovations” and declined to give further details. But two recent applications to the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, which governs changes to the building’s exterior, reveal Meinhardt is planning a commercial kitchen and a replacement for the Kneisler’s White House sign. The new sign would read “the White House of Bay View.”

Founded by William Kneisler in the 1890s, Kneisler’s became known as the White House for both the color of the building and the many area politicians who would use it as their campaign headquarters on election night according to the building’s historic designation report. Built in the Queen Anne style, descendants of the Kneislers family operated the tavern for over a century.

In 2006, Sean Raffaelli bought the building from the Kneisler family and operated the bar until he sold the property to Franklin-based HCI Properties LLC in January 2018 for $400,000. The tavern closed at the end of 2017.

MeinhardtByrne Properties LLC paid the same price for the structure on June 28th according to city records.

In 2018 Bay View alderman Tony Zielinski filed nomination paperwork with the commission in response to work being done on the property by HCI, but after meeting with David Griffith, founding partner of HCI, Zielinski decided to withdraw his nomination.

“They were going to preserve the historic nature of the building, without having to jump through all the hoops,” Zielinski told Urban Milwaukee in April 2018 of the approval process for any exterior changes to a locally-designated historic building.

But a group of Bay View residents refiled the application after Zielinski dropped his. Led by John Ebersol, whose family was longtime White House customers, a new historic designation nomination for the building was filed and approved by the commission. HCI objected to the application and said they were seeking to make changes to the building to make it more appealing for a future restaurant tenant.

Meinhardt has now twice worked with that designation framework to secure changes to the property. During a July 8 commission meeting, a resolution allowing for a kitchen hood to be placed at the Kneisler building’s rear was passed. On August 19, Meinhardt submitted an application to the commission that would allow her to remove the building’s damaged neon sign and allow for her to install her own sign, hand-painted with Old English-style lettering to complement the tavern’s aesthetic.

Meinhardt has yet to apply for a food dealer permit or liquor license.

For more on the former tavern, see Michael Horne‘s 2015 Bar Exam column “Kneisler’s White House, City’s Most Historic?”

White House Tavern

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