A toast to our storied past
Born in Austria in 1892, John T. Kegel immigrated to the United States in 1911. Four years later, he married slovenian-born Anna Bevc and in 1918 they moved to West Allis Wisconsin. After working variously as a trimmer and a milkman, John was convinced by a long-time friend to open a soft drink parlor. In reality, Kegel's Place was a prohibition-era speakeasy serving customers home-brewed beer and whiskey. In 1925, Kegel's Place occucpied just the east half of the current building. Like many other area "soft drink parlors" during prohibition, John Kegel brewed beer in the basement and his wife Ruth, would carry flasks of whiskey that were hidden in her sown-in pockets. For a time, things went smoothly, as most of the neighborhood was German. With the help of the leaded stained glass windows, it was hard to see what was actually going on inside.
At least some of the family stories we've heard, say that if you wanted to talk to a West Milwaukee or West Allis Police Officer, you'd have to go to Kegel's Inn. Maybe more so the officers liked Kegel's Inn as a place to grab an after shift beer, but the stories also allude to the attitudes of the Wisconsin drinking culture and give the impression of prosperous times for the restaurant during prohibition. For several years good times were had until one day on the First of May, 1927 Federal agents raided Kegel's Inn and busted Anna Kegel with "several ounces of intoxicating liquor".
With a little bit of luck and an expensive lawyer, Anna, and the future of Kegel's Inn was saved from the fate of so many of the other soda pop parlors in the area. As luck would have it, Wisconsin ended it's official enforcement of prohibition in 1928 and their establishment was spared. Her arrest ticket is pictured below.
With the lawsuit thrown out, and the restaurant operating smoothly, John & Anna started putting their money back into the business. Shortly before prohibition was officially repealed by the Federal Government in April 1933, John Kegel unveiled his grand plans to include a restaurant and 5 apartments upstairs. Construction took a little over a year, and the renamed "Kegel's Inn" opened Aug. 26, 1933 to a warm celebration. Almost immediately, German-born artist Peter Gries started on the wall murals which took more than 7 years to complete. Known as "the largest tavern built since the return of beer" Kegel's Inn quickly became once of the most popular places to get married in Milwaukee. Today, Kegel's Inn continues to serve it's rich heritage through delicious German food to customers looking for a warm & friendly atmosphere.