The Best Place tavern, located at 901 W. Juneau Ave. in the Historic Pabst Brewery, is set to open Sunday, May 2. As part of the former Pabst corporate offices and visitor’s center, the German-style Blue Ribbon Hall, Captain’s Courtyard, guest center and King’s Courtyard, the new pub will accommodate 50-60 people.
The hall within the Best Place Tavern is decorated with Edgar Miller’s 1944, one-hundredth anniversary fresco paintings of the Pabst Brewing Company history and brewing process along the ceiling’s perimeter. German sayings painted on walls along with the two courtyards, enclosed by hand blown-glass windows with stained glass mosaics, brings patrons back in time to a 19th century German tavern atmosphere.
The bar area showcases the building’s history with a sign-in book dating back to 1942, with signatures from members of the 1953 Boston Red Socks team. Marquette and UWM alumnus Jim Haertel, who bought and renovated Best Place, confirmed its historical authenticity, “The rooms have the same tables and chairs – same everything,” he said.
Marquette business student Caro Seiler, 24, who is helping Haertel prepare for the tavern’s opening, called Best Place a “historical treasure in Milwaukee.” As a German native, Seiler said Best Place reminds her of pubs in southern Germany.
“The United States is a young country, and I think Best Place is unique in its oldness,” Seiler said.
When Haertel, a Milwaukee-based financial and real estate consultant, pursued the purchase of the Pabst property in the late ‘90s, he quickly found that the only way he could buy Best Place was to buy the entire brewery for $11 million. After two and a half years of legal negotiations, Haertel signed a contract with a $50,000 down payment on Sept. 11, 2001, at 9:30 a.m.
Haertel explained his excitement of that morning, the morning he was to make his real estate dreams come true. But it was that morning that he found an empty office, and later a conference room of shocked faces staring at the attacked towers of the World Trade Center on the television screen.
The woman sitting nearby urged him not to sign the agreement, fearing the effects of the twin tower tragedy. Thinking to himself, “I’m not giving into the terrorists,” Haertel signed the contract.
With loves for real estate and beer, Haertel explained the success of his investment: “Now I found my passion – historical real estate related to beer.”
Looking back at his experiences at Marquette, where he received an executive Masters of Business Administration (MBA), Haertel said his Marquette education taught him to “follow your passion and success will come. Then give back.”
As the pub’s sternewirt – German for “star host,” a combination of the phrases “star brewer” and “brewer host” – Haertel gives tours in Best Place, one of the 23 of the 28 Pabst buildings he saved. He also leases Blue Ribbon Hall for group events.
A variety of memorabilia recovered from the Pabst Brewery can be purchased at Best Place’s Vintage Gift Shop, including “original stock certificates, mirrors, artwork, promotional materials, vintage postcards, and other collectable items such as coasters, beer buckets, bottle crowns,” according to the Best Place Web site.
by Melanie Pawlyszyn