According to legend, during the Prohibition era, the Plaza served the first beers in the area. “Moon” Molinaro, a UW football player, managed a small speakeasy adjacent to the building’s pool hall and operated the tap. Later, Al Grebe purchased the establishment and expanded it with bowling lanes. On February 12, 1930, Madison’s Jennie Hoverson Kelleher bowled the first 300 game for a woman in sanctioned competition at the bar’s bowling alley.
Harold Huss joined the team in 1945, and the Huss family acquired The Plaza in 1963. Mary Huss invented the renowned “Plaza Sauce” during this time, and the bar has since sold over 2 million of its popular burgers. Jim, Tom, Peg, and Kathy, the children of Harold and Mary, inherited ownership following their parents’ passing. In 2003, Dean Hetue, who had been the manager for more than 18 years, took over ownership from the Huss family.
The Plaza has attracted several famous patrons, including Bill Murray, Johnny Cash, Tom Wopat, Brett Favre, Neil Young, Greta Van Susteren, Joan and John Cusack, and former Wisconsin Governors Patrick Lucey, Lee Sherman Dreyfus, Tony Earl, and Tommy Thompson.