At first thought, opening a bar named Jamison’s Roaring Donkey in a location known for frequent police visits and alcohol license suspensions might seem like a bad idea. Owners and childhood friends, Brian Tatko and Kelton McMullen, admit that investors bristled, envisioning frat boys doing keg stands and the occasional bar stool flying through the front window. However, the name wasn’t born of a desire for publicity; its origins add character to an endearing, and likely enduring, downtown public house.
Spelled differently than the Irish whiskey, “Jamison” is a touching tribute to the friend Brian was helping open a bar in San Francisco before his untimely death. “Roaring Donkey” was the name of a pub in Cobh, Ireland, down the street from where Brian lived with his girlfriend. One night Brian needed a corkscrew to open a bottle of wine for dinner. Having none in the house, he headed down the street to fetch one from the local pub. After a long delay, and still in need of a corkscrew, Brian’s girlfriend found that he had made it to, but never left the Roaring Donkey. The name was a natural choice for his new bar, as it was likely to become his second home.
Brian and Kelton grew up in Novato, attended Chico University together, and always knew they wanted to open a bar. Friend Bob Waegner, with a background in bar management, rounds out this team of three, and plays an equal part in its success. Humbly explaining that he is not a true “partner”, Brian and Kelton immediately interrupt to point out that Bob is as much a partner as either of them and they would not have considering opening the bar without him. “Bob is the voice of reason when we start throwing out crazy ideas,” admits Kelton. Although, Brian and Kelton admit that more often than not Bob can actually turn those crazy ideas into a reality.