Cheers to Mibb’s and Viv’s and the fascinating history of Wisconsin taverns

We went to Lannon last Friday night in search of a delicious fish fry and found an even tastier story.

The current Mibb’s and Viv’s offers a nice, fresh, traditional Wisconsin fish fry, the kind at which you place your order first and then belly up to the bar to wait for your table. If you happen to be drawn to yellowed newsprint the way I am, it also offers a cool back story.

Mibb’s and Viv’s owes much of its history and, most likely, its long-held liquor license, to an enterprising man named Alfred J Mead. Mead, grandnephew of Lannon founder William Lannon (who, interestingly, had five children but no grandchildren and thus no direct heirs), was elected mayor when Lannon was incorporated in 1930. Five years earlier, during the height of prohibition, Mead had opened Mead’s Tavern.

According to the March 3, 1941 edition of the Waukesha Daily Freeman, Mead earned and maintained the respect of both his constituency and patrons

“Waukesha County is particularly proud of Mead who, though a tavern keeper, has earned the respect and confidence of the community,” the article, which hangs on the restaurant walls, said. “A man of Mr. Mead’s caliber is a real asset to the tavern industry and, through his connections has been able to do much for his fellow craftsmen.”

Literally a lifelong politician, Mead died after suffering a heart attack while addressing a Lannon school board meeting in 1947. At the time, he was the Lannon village president , a longstanding member of the Waukesha County Board and chairman of the sheriff’s committee.

I’m not saying the wily businessman did anything untoward when he opened and ran a tavern in 1925 that, according to that 1941 article, was “a meeting place for men of all walks of life. No meals are served and the place is devoid of the ‘frills’ yet Mr. Meade operates one of the most successful businesses of this section.”

But, I am saying Wisconsin business owners like him knew what they were doing.

Across the nation, prohibition banned the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages from 1920 to 1933, but Wisconsin politicians, like Mr. Mead, quickly created a loophole. In 1926 they developed a successful referendum allowing the manufacture of beer, if not its consumption. Three years later, Wisconsin voters repealed outright the whole law enforcing Prohibition and, in 1933, the rest of the nation followed suit.

So, as you sip your old fashioned and wait patiently for your generous serving of crisp, fried perch tonight, you can thank politician/business owners like Alfred J Mead.

Mibb’s and Viv’s offers a classic Wisconsin fish fry and is still run by descendants of the Lannon founders.
We may return to try their legendary broasted chicken.
After a good, long, appetite developing wait, we sat down to a perfect fish fry. Our waitress, Jen, who said she had worked at Mibb’s and Viv’s for 20 years, told us Fridays during Lent were always a busy time.
Time passed quickly as we sat at a very friendly bar and I read some of the faded news clippings on the wall. Lannon is known for its friendly residents and world famous stone.
I apologize for the poor quality of this photograph. I was just taking it for reference, but then I became even more fascinated with the wily Alfred J. Mead, lifelong politician and owner of Mead’s Tavern, now Mibb’s and Viv’s.

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