Boltini gets new owner

Boltini gets new owner

CHAMPAIGN — Joe McNamara has bought controlling interest in the Boltini martini and tapas bar in downtown Champaign.

McNamara said the bar's concept won't change, but he is introducing Sunday hours.

He is also adding half-price cocktail Wednesdays and half-price martini Thursdays, with 50 percent discounts on menu items both nights.

Boltini founder Jon "Cody" Sokolski will retain a 25 percent interest in the bar and continue to own the Boltini building at 211 N. Neil St., C, McNamara said.

McNamara — who owned The Bar at Chester Street from 1977 to 1983 — later owned restaurants in Key West, Fla., and Palm Springs, Calif.

"The only thing that could get me back to Champaign was Boltini," he said, adding it's always been his favorite bar. He said he was granted a liquor license Friday.

The new owner said Boltini's new executive chef, Paul Gasior, will tweak the menu, adding some items and dropping others.

Gasior aims to make the options more affordable and have the menu "appeal to everyone," McNamara said.

Beginning April 1, Boltini will add the services of Doug Barnes, a disc jockey who plays background music. But don't expect crowds to rush the dance floor.

"I'm not turning this into a dance club," McNamara said. "A dance club is not where I'm going."

Boltini will be open from 2 p.m. to midnight Sundays and from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. the other nights of the week, he added. He said he intends to keep Tuesday Trivia Night.

McNamara said he was 30 years old when he bought Chances R in 1977 and reopened it as The Bar on Chester Street. He said he sold that business in 1983 and moved to Key West.

"Times were changing, disco was dying, and it was time for me to go," he said. "I was burned out after six years of non-stop discoing. The music never stopped."

In Key West, he owned Club Tropic, a restaurant that served breakfast and lunch as well as the late-night crowd, and also was a dance club. He was involved in that enterprise about six years, he said.

McNamara said he then moved to Palm Springs, Calif., where he operated the Fabooo restaurant and a catering business that served the Palm Springs International Film Festival during the early 1990s.

Closer to home, McNamara opened the Sangamon Grill and Bar in Rantoul after Chanute Air Force Base closed. The business lasted only 18 months before he sold it, he said.

In more recent years, McNamara said he has been working in marketing and advertising, serving as an independent consultant to Procter& Gamble for Crest toothpaste and working on a radio marketing campaign for Siemens.

"Why am I back in the bar business?" he said. "I really love this business."

In the late 1960s, McNamara worked as a photographer and feature writer for The News-Gazette.

"I started three weeks after Loren Tate started," he said.

McNamara's father, Joseph McNamara, was Champaign County's supervisor of assessments for 15 years, retiring in 1981.

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gamera wrote on March 06, 2013 at 11:03 am

Can't really see how tweaking the menu, opening on Sunday, and adding sleepy-time...I mean background music is much of a change or presenting anything new or different from any other place downtown.

I can go to Radio or Dublin's or Esquire or Jupiter's or Seven Saints and get food on a Sunday. And I can go to most bars and barely hear the background music.

But I wish the owners luck. The crowds are not like they used to be at Boltini. Used to be a line to get into the bar Thursday-Saturday nights. Now it's a ghost town on most nights.


angelatoole wrote on March 06, 2013 at 12:03 pm
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"Gasior aims to make the options more affordable and have the menu 'appeal to everyone.'"

I hope "appeals to everyone" isn't just a way of saying "we're going to have cheap burgers."  If the menu is being updated, it'd be nice to see a couple of (non-appetizer/afterthought) vegan/vegetarian options.  Word to the new owners--vegans and vegetarians like to get drunk on your awesome martinis and eat food too.  :)

palmtree wrote on March 06, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Sunday hours will be welcome - especially during the summer months.  Hope you don't tweak the menu too much -- keep the blue cheese mac n cheese and the na'anwich!  Boltini is one of our favorite spots and hope to keep it on our favorite list!

Jam Master J wrote on March 06, 2013 at 5:03 pm

TL;DR Version

  • More drink specials, such as half off martinis.
  • New affordable menu with "appeal to everyone"
  • Trivia might stay, other nights go.
  • Background Music provided by Doug Barnes (Who is doug barnes?)
  • Bonus Sunday Hours (4 - 2am)
  • New owner from florida, who burned out on the disco scene in the 80's.
  • New owner sold last resteraunt business after 18 months.

My opinion: Boltini was a cool place back in the day, thanks to classy atmosphere, stiff drinks, quality food items that weren't available anywhere else, and unique music provided by bozak/spinerty, mertz, little big bass and j-phlip. Every single aspect about the place was different and way better than the standard.

Looks like they are going in a similar direction of every other bar in town. Maybe thats what people in this town needs is more of the same with a sugar coating to make it seem cool. Dissapointing to me but only time can tell.

gamera wrote on March 07, 2013 at 10:03 am

Sad but true. Everything original about that place has been destroyed or ruined. 

texasdoug wrote on March 06, 2013 at 8:03 pm

I think Joe McNamara will be very successful and run a very nice place.  His passion is entertainment.  As for the guy who ask "Who is Doug Barnes?", he is a great guy and dear friend of Joe, and will be an asset to the business.  When I come home from Texas to visit C-U, I will certainly visit to have a drink, or two, or even three.  Best wishes Joe.

gamera wrote on March 07, 2013 at 10:03 am

Hahaha...background music is entertainment? Not even by definition, dude....

DJDougBarnes wrote on March 07, 2013 at 11:03 am

Hello Champaign.  I would like to start by saying Congratulations to my very good friend Joe McNamara with the purchase of what has always been one of our favorite bars in downtown Champaign.  I am looking forward to once again reuniting with him on this new both of our careers.  I'm reading through the comments, and thought it was my turn to let you know a little about me, and what I plan to bring to "Boltini".

For those of you who might not know who I am...  I have been a DJ for 40 years, having worked at some of the top "Disco's & Clubs" in the country.  Most recently the past 28 years in Houston's top Video club, "JR's Bar & Grill".  I was also the original DJ at "theBar" (now known as "Chester Street") when Joe opened the club in 1978.  I also worked with Joe at his club in Key West, "Club Tropic", and a couple other earlier clubs before "theBar". 

I am going to bring a new twist and energy to the nightlife of Champaign.  Something that will only bring more good things and great times to "Boltini".  The music might be called "background music", but is by no means "sleepy time music".  It will not put you to sleep!  But that is all I'm going to say at this time.  You will just have to wait and 'see' and enjoy the nightly musical journey.

Again, I am looking forward to returning to Champaign, reuniting with old friends, and making many new ones.  And bringing my very best to "Boltini" and all the valued customers that have been coming through out the years, and to the new ones that will come check us out.

See you soon Champaign....  It's time to Party, ...once again!