In Bars & Clubs

Von Trier changes hands but not concepts.

Von Trier's new owner promises few changes other than a fish fry menu

In mid-May, John Sidoff, who has owned the beloved German bar Von Trier since 2009, will hand off the business to Mark Zierath, owner of Jackson's Blue Ribbon Pub, 1203 N. 10th St.

Zierath, who started going to Von Trier a few decades ago with his father, says he's very excited to take over the Milwaukee classic and will make very few changes to the bar. He does, however, plan to expand the kitchen in order to include lunch service as well as a Friday fish fry menu.

"We'll have multiple variations of a very traditional Milwaukee fish fry," says Zierath. "And we'll rotate in fish fry specials every week, too."

Currently, Zierath is considering two different plans for the kitchen expansion, but will most likely choose to relocate the main floor restrooms to make room for the larger food area.

"We are going to stick with the longstanding tradition of Von Trier being the great German beer hall that it is," says Zierath.

Zierath, who will also open soon open Ella's Public House in the Town of Genesee, says the only other significant change he has planned for Von Trier is to include more craft cocktails made with Great Lakes Distillery spirits.

"They're local and have a great product," he says.

Both Sidoff and Zierath stressed their commitment to preserving Von Trier well into the future. In 2017, Sidoff announced his intention to transform the German tavern into a "an upscale, classic cocktail lounge with a mid-century vibe." Thousands of people signed a petition asking for the bar to stay the same and Sidoff later retracted his remodeling plans.

"I had no idea how many people truly wanted to see Von Trier thrive during the North Avenue renaissance," Sidoff told OnMilwaukee at the time. "The outpouring of support, visitors and personal messages was overwhelming."

Sidoff, who has more than 40 years of bar experience, says he decided it was finally time to retire. He also believes that to continue to thrive in the changing East Side neighborhood Von Trier needed to offer more food – specifically a fish fry –and knew he just wasn't the guy to do it.

"I am really happy that Von Trier is going to this guy (Mark). He understands the market, the neighborhood and the history of Von Trier," says Sidoff. "I've had a great time in the business, but it will be nice to never look at another Yelp review ever again."


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