Jeramey Jannene
Dining

New “White House” Could Open Soon

Couple planning European inspired restaurant in long-time Bay View tavern.

By - Oct 15th, 2019 01:12 pm
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Kneisler's White House Tavern Building. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

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

The White House, a historic Bay View tavern, could be reborn as a European-inspired restaurant by the end of next month.

Allison Meinhardt and her husband Zach Byrne will own and operate the business. The couple acquired the historic property at 2900 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. in June for $400,000 with plans to live in an apartment on the building’s second floor with the restaurant below.

Meinhardt appeared before the Historic Preservation Commission Monday afternoon to secure approval on a replacement for the damaged, large neon sign affixed to the Queen Anne-style building.

It was assumed the sign was installed by the Kneisler family that long owned and operated the tavern in the 1930s or 1940s during the heyday of neon signs said commission staffer Carlen Hatala. Meinhardt designed a new wood sign, dropping the Kneisler family name, with the same massing as the existing triangular sign structure.

But as a result of additional research, she’ll have more options going forward.

“Now we know the sign post-dates 1980 because of the photographs,” said Hatala in presenting a series of historic photos. She suggested the commission approve Meinhardt’s current plan as a temporary sign and allow her to design a permanent sign “keeping with the historic character of the building.”

Meinhardt won’t be sad to see the sign go. “I personally think that the one that exists now is an eyesore,” said Meinhardt. “I think the building deserves much better.”

She also is considering bringing back another historical touch to the property. “I’m not opposed to bringing back the cloth awning,” said Meinhardt. She praised the awnings on Three Brothers, another Bay View residence that was formerly a Schlitz Brewing tied house.

The unexpectedly young age of the sign might explain another historic oddity. The sign says the tavern was established in 1891, but Hatala’s 2018 report when the property was historically designated showed the tavern building dates back to 1893.

Meinhardt told the commission she has yet to apply for a liquor license or other permits related to operating the restaurant.

She said much of the interior work, not regulated by the city’s historic preservation ordinance, is already finished. A permit was issued for a kitchen exhaust vent, which will allow work to be finished there.

When will the restaurant open? “Late November if I’m lucky,” said Meinhardt.

“Good luck to you. I think this is great,” said Alderman Robert Bauman. The alderman praised Meinhardt’s departure from plans from an earlier owner that contemplated installing large windows in the facade and triggered the building’s historic designation.

Meinhardt also drew praise from John Ebersol, the Bay View resident that nominated the building for historic preservation, who returned the sentiment. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think someone would be as sensitive to the building as Allison,” said Ebersol.

The commission unanimously approved the temporary sign. Urban Milwaukee originally reported on Meinhardt’s application in September.

The original White House tavern closed in December 2017. For more on the building’s history see a 2015 profile by Michael Horne.

According to drawings submitted to the city, the new restaurant will be known as “White House of Bay View.”

White House Tavern

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Related Legislation: File 190890

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