Home Iconic bar Owner of Kenny’s Westside Pub in Peoria buys Friendly Valley Tavern

Owner of Kenny’s Westside Pub in Peoria buys Friendly Valley Tavern


PEORIA – Once it reopens, likely in mid-April, Friendly Valley Tavern is to become more music and entertainment friendly.

It will also be a little more modern and much more robust. But at its base will remain the tiny, atmospheric Quonset Hut that opened nearly 80 years ago.

Sean Kenny has every intention of seeing to it.

“The key word is ‘preserve’,” said Friendly Valley’s new owner. “Keep as much as possible what it looked like, but improve it and make sure it can work for 80 more years.”

Late last year, Kenny bought the tavern at 3708 N. Meadowbrook Road, in a steep dip near University Street and War Memorial Drive in Central Peoria. He also owns Kenny’s Westside Pub in downtown Peoria.

When Friendly Valley closed its doors last October, about three months after the death of longtime owner Joe Wright, some of its regular customers lamented the possible end of an era. Extending it almost felt like civic duty, Kenny suggested.

“I always thought it was a cool, unique place,” he said. “I had my eyes set on it. When it went on sale I jumped on it because I knew other people wanted it too.

“It’s just an institution.”

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“He was in bad shape”

Longtime boss Gregg Mangum and bartender Linda Dowell hang out Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021 at the Friendly Valley Tavern, 3708 N. Meadowbrook Road in Peoria.

In addition to operating Kenny’s, which closes at 4 a.m. daily, its eponymous owner has helped renovate Friendly Valley. Part of the reason Wright’s son decided to sell the bar was the cost of a potential rehabilitation.

“The interior of the place was quite the job,” Kenny said. “He was in bad shape.”

The Quonset Hut now has new electrical wiring, new plumbing and a new roof. It has also been structurally reinforced.

Other upgrades include an ice machine — the bar didn’t have one, Kenny said — and the addition of draft beer. It is to be served in schooner glasses. The inspiration came from depictions on old beer signs that Kenny found in the bar’s basement and cupboards.

Kenny plans to hang the signs on the walls of the tavern. The signs were covered in soot and some neon lights were broken, but Kenny had them fixed. They date from the 1950s to the 1970s.

Old wooden crates of soft drinks were also found in the Friendly Valley storage. Kenny reused this wood to cover a wall.

“They had them sitting there forever,” he said of the crates. “They all say ‘Peoria, Illinois’ on the side, that’s really cool.”

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Sit back and listen to live music outside

A wall of repurposed soft drink crates found at Friendly Valley Tavern covers a wall of the iconic Peoria Bar.  Sean Kenny, owner of Kenny's Westside Pub in downtown Peoria, has purchased Friendly Valley and plans to reopen it next month.

Exterior changes are also planned, mostly to about an acre of land that adjoins the bar.

Volleyball courts are a likely addition, Kenny said. But when customers aren’t jostling, settling, and biting, they can dance.

Kenny envisions the Friendly Valley yard becoming a summer home for live music. It would be similar but not identical to what happens at Kenny’s Westside, which has become a venue for performances that tour the country.

Friendly Valley musicians would be mostly local, Kenny said. Performances would possibly start at 6 p.m. instead of Kenny’s Westside’s typical 10 p.m.

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“Music is kind of what I do,” Kenny said. “I can just see a lot of people enjoying outdoor music in the summer. No entrance fee, bring a chair.

“Downtown, I’m in a concrete jungle. I’m just excited to have some nature.”

But the interior of the bar will remain tiny, with a capacity of around 30 people. Ultimately, Friendly Valley might only be able to adapt to so many changes before losing its character. Kenny seems aware of this.

“It’s only had two owners, so it’s a real honor to be third to run this place,” he said.

Nick in the morning