ROGERS PARK — The person "with a strong sense of the neighborhood" who was rumored to be opening a restaurant in the former Gruppo di Amici in Jarvis Square is none other than Renee Labrana, the beloved ex-partner in the Glenwood Bar.
Labrana said her latest venture, serving "high-end pub grub," will be named R Public House and should open on Aug. 1.
"I know I could never recreate a Glenwood, and I know I could never recreate a Gruppo," she said, "but I want to do something that does work with the community — and something that the community enjoys."
Labrana was a business partner and the bar manager of the Glenwood Bar for five years before a dispute with co-owner Colm Treacy led to her leaving the business. The abrupt move caused some regulars of the LGBT-friendly establishment to boycott Treacy's other Rogers Park businesses.
But now Labrana wants to put the drama behind her, she said.
"I think you learn from everything," said the 47-year-old. "I put my heart and soul into that place for five years. I'm excited to take this new endeavor."
The Italian restaurant, which closed on Saturday, was founded by Lori Alderete and Phaedra Divras in 2006. In 2009, Alderete died of cancer, and ever since Divras had been looking for the right person to take over the spot at 1508 W. Jarvis Ave., according to the building's landlord.
"l love the feel of Rogers Park. People care about the community," Labrana said, pointing to the community response after the brutal attack on Michael Davis as an example.
Labrana expects a big crowd of her supporters on opening day, but she's put it out of mind for now as she sets up her new restaurant, which will include an extended bar, high-top tables and a "rustic" decor.
"I'll get to that when I get to that," she said of day No. 1.
The restaurant will be open seven days a week from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. It will serve pub fare like pizza, sandwiches and salads until midnight.