A landmark downtown Sonora bar and restaurant has new owners who plan on making some big changes in the coming months.
The Europa Deli, Sports Bar and Grill at 275 S. Washington St., which has operated on and off at the same location since the early 1900s, was purchased by CJ Valenti and his wife and business partner, Corinne Robinson, a Sonora High School graduate.
The couple has owned and operated the Winters Tavern in Pacifica since 2013 and plan to re-christen their new acquisition as Winters Tavern Motherlode Grill.
Valenti cautioned in a telephone interview earlier this month that “nothing was set in stone” yet because they were still awaiting the transfer of a liquor license and approvals from the City of Sonora.
“There’s a lot involved here,” Valenti said. “We have to satisfy the health department, ABC with the liquor license, fire department and what not.”
Kim Campbell, community development specialist for the city, confirmed the city still needs to conduct an occupancy inspection pending approvals from other agencies.
Nevertheless, local residents and fans of the couple’s Pacifica business are expressing excitement about the prospect on social media.
An official Facebook page for the future business has already generated more than 400 likes.
If all goes according to plan, Valenti said they hope to have the official grand opening sometime in October.
Valenti said he and his wife “revitalized and reenergized” a declining neighborhood sports bar in Pacifica by serving up fresh local food, beer and music.
They’re hoping the same recipe for success will work in Sonora, Valenti said.
“After a couple years, we reestablished the venue and had some really exciting shows up there,” Valenti said. “If we can get even 10 percent of the entertainment up here to Sonora, I think people will be pleasantly surprised.”
Some of the acts Valenti listed that have played at the Winters Tavern included punk-rock bands like Agent Orange and the Dickies.
The couple plans on moving to the area and were staying in Jamestown with family at the time the interview was conducted on Aug. 7.
Valenti said he’s been in love with the area ever since his first trip over Sonora Pass in 1998 and regularly visits with Sonora being his wife’s hometown.
“It’s a place I’ve always really connected with,” Valenti said. “It’s just fate that this building came up.”
The Europa last closed in 2015 after being open about two-and-a-half years, though the original business dates back to before 1920. It was originally built by Italian immigrants who named it after their home continent.
Harry and Bea Bezaitis took over the business in 1968 and it was the county’s first and longest running 24-hour business until it was sold in 1989. It became Wilma’s Cafe and Flying Pig Saloon from 1989 to 2001, but the Bezaitis family continued to own the property.
A steakhouse and barbecue grill operated in the building until 2012, when the Bezaitis family reopened the Europa following 10 months of renovations.
“It’s such a great building and has so much character, but it’s been sitting idly for a while and needs to be rejuvenated and reenergized,” Valenti said. “That’s our specialty.”
Contact Alex MacLean at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 588-