Ken’s – a not so secret speakeasy

The thought behind Ken’s ambience was to take pieces that would have been around in Iowa in the 1920’s and incorporate them into the layout. The front of the bar is made from the auditorium stage that used to reside in Haverhill High School in Haverhill, Iowa. In 1940 the elevator doors were removed from the Equitable Building in town and we have repurposed them as dividers between all of the booth seating. The walls are adorned with old Templeton Rye and Cedar Ridge whiskey barrels, while we also utilized a giant mirrored fireplace mantle that came from a mansion that used to be on 42nd and Grand Avenue.

Come enjoy a relaxed, speakeasy-style setting while you listen to jazz, swing, blues, ragtime, and vintage covers.

Read more about the history of the building that houses Iowa Taproom and Ken’s.

Ken’s features classic Prohibition cocktails, thematic drinks, craft beer, wine, and an extensive whiskey list! Come try featured drinks such as our Brandy Old Fashioned, Gin Rickey, Manhattan, Desmopolitan, and more! (View our menu)

We also have cocktails in honor of the history surrounding Ken’s. The Dilley’s Printing Press Punch is named after the manufacturing company that owned the building before the Iowa Taproom and Ken’s opened. The Capitol Pie Cocktail was crafted as a nod to our most popular dessert at The Iowa Taproom, the Capitol Pie. Kenneth Sonderleiter was stripped of his citizenship in 1931, and in 1942 Franklin D. Roosevelt gave Ken a Presidential Pardon and returned his citizenship rights. In honor of Roosevelt, we created the Presidential Pardon Martini based on his favorite cocktail.

You can also find a great selection of whiskey, including Iowa whiskey from Templeton Rye, Cedar Ridge, Foundry, Cat Eye, Steeple Ridge, Mississippi River, and Iowa Distilling. Stop in to see our current whiskey menu.

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Kenneth Sonderleiter was one of Des Moines’ most notorious bootleggers in the 1920’s. He was known as the “society bootlegger” and the “rum kingpin” as he trafficked booze to hotel room guests, politicians, retail customers, and media men. Ken was in charge of the storage, transportation and sale of hundreds of gallons of whiskey, alcohol and beer, as well as Templeton Rye.

In the 1930’s his luck started to change as evidence of his undercover operation began to come to light. In 1931 he was given a penitentiary sentence on a federal liquor charge and he had his citizenship rights revoked. He was incarcerated at Fort Leavenworth for three years. Franklin D. Roosevelt later restored his citizenship with a Presidential Pardon in 1942.

In addition to his racketeering, Ken also owned a battery shop, penny arcade, zoo, lunch stand, beer bottling business, and pet shop.