Joe Knesely - Chief's Pub
502 N. Western Ave., LF
Come sample outstanding food from Chief’s Pub at Uncorked on Friday, September 6!
Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Chamber of Commerce: What was the inspiration behind Chief’s Pub and how long have you been involved in the business?
Joe Knesely: My grandfather had a restaurant/bar when my dad was a kid, it was called ‘Grandpa’s’ in Knollwood. So, my dad always wanted to open a restaurant of his own. He had a heating/air conditioning business and had been in business in Lake Bluff/Lake Forest for a while, but he always wanted to do the bar/restaurant. So, in 2007, Todd Altounian had this spot available and everything just fell into place. The inspiration for the theme comes from the long line of firefighting in our family. I'm a third-generation firefighter. My grandfather was a firefighter, my dad, all my uncles, my cousins, my sister, and her new boyfriend. So that's where we got the theme for everything.
In 2016, my dad sold Chief’s to me and my sister; and then my wife, Jenna, and I bought out my sister later that year, because she a job with Cook County. So, we’re keeping the fire department stuff in here, it's really cool memorabilia, but we wanted to add a sports bar feel to it. We wanted it to be a place where everybody can go and see pro sports games and all the college games.
LFLBC: What's your business vision?
JK: Well, our ultimate goal is to keep this in the family long enough for my boys to take it over if they want to, and then hopefully, maybe open one or two other places very similar to this one.
LFLBC: What is the one thing you want people to know about Chief’s Pub?
JK: We want people to know that we are a local family doing this. We’re not a restaurant management group, or a big corporation. You’ll see us around town on the paddle court, on the golf course, shopping in the stores, eating at all the other restaurants in town. We’re a Lake Forest/Lake Bluff/Knollwood family that grew up here and has our business here. We just love being in this community. People love supporting local businesses here, and the community has shown us a lot of love and support.
LFLBC: How do you give back to the community?
JK: We have a lot of fundraisers. It’s often for an unfortunate event, such as a firefighter dying in the line of duty. We’ll do a profit-sharing night where we’ll sell raffle tickets and do a 50/50 split, or we’ll sell a sports jersey and give all the money that we make to the family of the firefighter. Right now, Hurricane Dorian is coming, so we’ll raise money for that effort and give it to the Red Cross. We like to do a lot for childhood cancer, and we give to St. Jude's. And of course, we offer discounts for military, firemen and police. We are always looking to donate to Midwest Veterans Closet, too. My buddy Jeff owns Donati’s--he’s a neighbor and a friend. So, we always try to team up together and see how much money we can raise for various causes.
LFLBC: What other local businesses do you work with?
JK: So, Donati’s, as I mentioned. Also, we’re always referring people to the Deer Path Inn, and they send people to us, particularly during wedding season. They close a little earlier than we do, so they send people over to us who are looking for an after-party spot. And if somebody comes in here for a drink and is looking for fine dining, we send them over there.
LFLBC: What has been your greatest business initiative?
JK: When we took over in 2016, we wanted to change to be more of a traditional sports bar. And part of that was making our food fresh-to-plate. We don't freeze anything anymore. Our food is made for every ticket—it’s no longer pre-made. It takes a bit longer, but the food is fresher that way. All the food we’re doing is from homemade recipes, sometimes ones we make up at our house--like our cream cheese stuffed jalapeno poppers wrapped in bacon. It’s all fresh food, humanely raised, and local. All of our chicken products come from Harrison Poultry Farm in Northbrook. Our beef is 100% free range Angus beef. So, that would definitely be our best initiative--creating a fresh menu.
That…and adding the monster TV that everybody loves!
LFLBC: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
JK: We’d just like to say thank you. We've seen our business increase tremendously since 2016 and I think it's because we’re a local family running this place. We just want to say thank you to everybody for continuing to support us...just a big ol’ thank you.