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Herman Berghoff immigrated to America from Dortmund, Germany, in 1870. Herman and his three brothers, Henry, Hubert and Gustav, started brewing Berghoff's Beer in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1887. Herman wanted to expand the market for the family's beer and to do so he sold beer at the Chicago World's Fair of 1893.
The popularity of the beer inspired Herman to open a cafe to showcase Berghoff's Dortmunder-style beer which it sold for a nickel. Sandwiches were offered for free. The bar remained open even through the prohibition period by selling a near beer (which is now sold as Berghoff's Root Beer) and Bergo Soda Pop and became a full-service restaurant. After prohibition was repealed in 1933, The Berghoff was issued Liquor License No. 1. Long after most restaurants ended the practice, the Berghoff maintained a separate men's only bar. The segregation ended in 1969, when seven members of the National Organization for Women stood at the bar and demanded service.
For much of its history, the Berghoff waiters would purchase the meals they were serving from the kitchen and then deliver them to the customer, keeping the amount the customer paid for the meals.
On December 28, 2005, it was announced by Herman Berghoff, 70, and his wife Jan Berghoff that after 107 years of operation, The Berghoff would close on February 28, 2006. Herman and Jan are the third generation of Berghoffs to own the restaurant.
The restaurant's basement cafe reopened on April 18, 2006, during weekday lunch hours only, and is run by Carlyn Berghoff, Herman and Jan's daughter. She also reopened the Berghoff's bar on May 23, 2006, under the new name "17/West at The Berghoff." At one point, Carlyn Berghoff converted the dining room of the restaurant into a private banquet hall called "The Century Room.", however, it's back and running as a full-service restaurant like it once did. The Berghoff Cafe at O'Hare Airport also remains open. The Berghoff Brewery was sold to the Falstaff company in 1954. The Huber company began brewing the beers in 1960 under contract, and purchased the brand from the Berghoff family in 1995. The Berghoff beers include their Bock, Genuine Dark, Hazelnut Winterfest, Hefeweizen, and Honey Maibock. Berghoff beer is currently owned by Minhas Craft Brewery, formerly known as Joseph Huber Brewing Company.
In 2007, The Berghoff reopened with a new menu. It's now considered German cuisine fused with Contemporary American, tagged as "tradition with a twist."