Five years ago, Donna Petruska was ready to step in and take over the family business at Donelli’s Pub & Eatery in Lake Bluff.
“She had three young kids so we didn’t think it was the best idea,” said Chuck Donelli, who with his wife, Sharon, ran the establishment at 515 Rockland Road from 1995 to 2007.
So the Donelli’s stuck to their plan to retire to Missouri and entered into a contract with new business partners, who renamed it “James Tavern.”
Petruska is getting her second chance after James Tavern recently closed its doors. She is taking over the reigns as the new manager of operations at the restored pub under the Donelli name.
The pub recently reopened with digital touch tunes music options, big screen TVs, fresh paint, new walls and renovated bathrooms and kitchen.
Petruska wants to bring back the feeling Donelli’s once had as the “Cheers” of Lake Bluff. The place where everyone knew one another.
“I’m looking forward to operating a little neighborhood gathering place where I can see everyone again after five years,” Petruska said.
There will be daily specials, bands on Friday nights and Tuesday open mic night. Plans are already underway for the Uncle Sam Jam for the Fourth of July featuring “Private Drive”.
“We want to go back to the way we were because it worked,” said Chuck Donelli, who grew up in Knollwood.
Petruska’s industry career began when “we dragged her in kicking and screaming to fill in during staff absences,” said Sharon Donelli.
Before long, Petruska was working full time at the pub, enjoying the freedom of working the hours she wanted while raising her young children.
"Once I started I never left the industry,” said Petruska, who worked at Donelli’s for 12 years before switching to a similar position in Waukegan when the pub went under different ownership.
Her presence this time will allow her parents to return to their 50-acre Missouri farm.
“Where it didn’t get colder than 38 degrees last winter and the grandkids stay all summer riding the go carts, miniature ponies, playing in the pond and helping with the chickens,” Chuck Donelli said.