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.