The closing of two or three popular taverns and eateries this summer, as well as some pubs going up for sale, made it look like a vanishing-bar trend had developed.
But this fall, entrepreneurs have opened or are opening new gathering places — and three of them in Peru and Spring Valley sit almost within casting distance of the Illinois River.
On Water Street, Peru
Zach and Colton Cinotto opened Riverfront Bar & Grill on Friday, and for the launch party, they randomly gave away two Chicago Blackhawks suite tickets.
“We had a great crowd. I was really happy with it,” said Zach, who graduated from La Salle-Peru Township High School in 2013 and played football at St. Ambrose University.
His brother Colton, class of 2016, wrestled at L-P. Both of them decided to turn the riverfront business into a sports bar when the opportunity arose. It had just become available after Russ Guynn closed Waterstreet Pub abruptly after Independence Day, and the venture caused an alteration of Zach’s plans of studying law at Georgetown.
The owners have finished months of upgrades and changes — mostly cosmetic such as new stain and paint. They added new furnishings including 33 barstools with the logos of 33 different college teams, Zach said. They now have 16 TV screens and can and will show almost any game, as well as high school jerseys on the walls, local teams’ football helmets. They commissioned Austin Ploch to create an 11-foot mural of Howard Fellows Stadium, too.
They’ve completely refurbished the kitchen, and they have that ready. But with help from two experienced cooks and mentorship from food services including U.S. Foods and Performance, they’re still developing their menu. So, they have the bar open for the busy Thanksgiving week rush and tentatively plan to start serving food Dec. 9.
Near Water Street, Peru
A couple of blocks to the east in Peru, Chris Dudek spent four years’ worth of “free time, if you can call it that” totally redoing the interior of the bar and restaurant under the Route 251 bridge that previously housed Jim & Linda’s Riverview and years before that, Luna Nova.
Bridgetender’s Pub, owned by Dudek and girlfriend Sarah Morgensen, opened on Halloween and was packed throughout November.
The place has a grand back bar; modern, elegant light fixtures and impressive woodwork on the bar top. Dudek flips houses and also works as an Operating Engineer, so he has a wide variety of skills, plus friends with plenty of knowledge. He and a buddy — “he doesn’t want publicity” — built the new back bar from scratch, but it looks like it could have been there for several decades.
“We wanted it to fit the building,” Dudek said.
He assembled and meticulously smoothed out the bar top, made from old, local, rough-sawn wood he acquired from a sawmill in LaMoille.
“It’s not something you find at a store very easily,” he said of the bar surface.
Dudek reconfigured the building and removed the old, disjointed kitchen and will have a new one.
He said he plans to have grill-outs for patio season, but is not sure when they’ll start the restaurant business.
“I’ve been really busy selling drinks right now and I don’t want to spoil a good thing,” Dudek said.
In downtown Peru
Monday, Guynn reopened his Waterstreet North Art Deco Lounge.
He spent the past couple of months revamping, refinishing and brightening up the long, narrow tavern with a long bar along one side and dining tables in the middle. Murals also are being added, including a painting of “The Rat Pack” on a south interior wall and an “Angry Orchard” mural on another. On Sunday, he said he wants to dedicate some wall space for an Evel Knievel mural, too.
Guynn had closed Art Deco Lounge this summer. The bar, on the south side of Fourth Street between Fulton and Peoria streets, has been a mainstay in downtown Peru, previously as Art Giese’s and before that, Doc’s.
And yes, they still have the indoor shuffleboard table.
Guynn plans to start serving food in mid-December.
In Spring Valley
Bill Elliott had a huge crowd Saturday at the place he has been working to open — however, the crowd was there by private invitation for Elliott’s birthday, the NewsTribune was told.
Elliott’s large building once housed Riverview Marine and later housed the fishing, hunting, archery, boat and bait business, Time on the Water Outdoors.
This summer, when Valley Bar and Grill closed downtown, Elliott — an avid hunter — acquired some of the outdoors-themed memorabilia and artifacts that decorated Valley Grill from Dan McFadden.
Party in the front, business in the back, Elliott’s Last Pour will include rustic décor, a rectangular bar, quite a bit of barnwood and polished concrete floors. Elliott houses his concrete business in the back of the building.
Craig Sterrett can be reached at (815) 220-6935 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_NewsEditor.