New owners of former White House Tavern plan to renovate building, open restaurant

Property sold last month for $400,000

Historic White House Tavern
Historic White House Tavern

Almost a month after purchasing The Historic White House Tavern in Bay View, a Franklin-based developer is on the hunt for a “qualified” restaurant operator to open an establishment in the 128-year-old building.

The longtime bar, located at 2900 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., had its final service day on Dec. 31 after nine years of operation. Sean Raffaelli bought the two-story, 3,666-square-foot building in 2006 and sold it last month for $400,000 to HCI Properties.

HCI wants to renovate the building, built in 1890, while preserving its historic structure, but co-owner Joe Grasch said no major changes will be made until it finds an operator who shares the same vision. Grasch owns the firm with co-owner David Griffith.

“The building is in rough shape, but it’s going to be difficult to do much to it before an operator steps forward,” Grasch said. “It will be a joint effort to bring the building back to its glory.”

For now, HCI plans to clean the space and make some general infrastructure changes to the building, which includes adding more bathrooms.

The building consists of a first-floor bar and restaurant space and a second-floor apartment– with three-bedrooms and one-bathroom– that will likely be converted into additional dining space, Grasch said.

Grasch has personally reached out to several Milwaukee restaurant operators about opening an establishment. Cory Sovine, senior vice president at Colliers International, will handle the search.

“We are hoping we can find somebody who wants to be part of the building’s history and make it something special,” Grasch said.

HCI Properties mainly develops and manages multi-family apartment complexes in Fond du Lac, Racine and Sheboygan. Grasch said this project is the firm’s first Bay View endeavor– although they had been eyeing the neighborhood for some time– and is different from its usual developments, but will be a step into a new market.

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Maredithe Meyer
Maredithe has covered retail, restaurants, entertainment and tourism since 2018. Her duties as associate editor include copy editing, page proofing and managing work flow. Meyer earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University and still enjoys attending men’s basketball games to cheer on the Golden Eagles. Also in her free time, Meyer coaches high school field hockey and loves trying out new restaurants in Milwaukee.

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