“A lot of people seem to think we've done a lot of renovations here,” says general contractor Robert Miller, the new owner of the Hotel Petaluma, “but we really haven't.”
It's a natural assumption, given Miller's track record. He has bought several old structures in town over the years, most notably the former Lincoln Primary School building at Fifth and B streets, and significantly renovated them.
“I would've liked to have done a lot more work on the hotel,” says Miller, “but the economy started to tumble. Maybe in a year or two, when things improve, I can clean up the front, put up nice new awnings, and uncover the row of windows that were stuccoed over at some point.”
When the San Anselmo entrepreneur bought the landmark building for $6.1 million in December 2007 from previous owners John Jernigan and Jim Maestretti, his goal was clear.
“I saw great character and good bones here,” he remembers. “But the beautiful 10,000-square-foot banquet area was completely underutilized. I wanted to break it up for office space and a nice restaurant.”
Last month, a new tenant moved into an office that was once the cigar room off the main ballroom. “All I did was repaint it and install some new lighting, but it looks so much better now,” Miller says.
And in September, after their four-year search, Petalumans Eric Lafanchi and his wife, Wendy, opened their pub, Taps, in the former banquet area.
“We walked in here and knew this was the perfect space for us,” says Lafanchi.
Taps serves 31 local and foreign beers and affordable fare, such as sausages, hot dogs and sandwiches, including “Puppy Dogs,” and root beer floats for the kids. “The response has been overwhelming,” Lafanchi says.
Part of the banquet area once housed a Cajun restaurant with murals of Louisiana bayou country. The murals are still there, but most of one wall had to be sacrificed to install a 140-square foot walk-in fridge to store Taps' beers.