Gabe’s reopens, but not without controversy


Charlie Anderson/The Daily Iowan
Gabe’s, formerly known as the Picador (which, before that was known as Gabe’s), is shown during the second day of business on Thursday. The bar reverted to the original name, hoping to recreate the feel the original bar had.
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Gabe’s is back … sort of.

Steve Federspiel purchased the business for $120,000 after the Picador closed its doors due to management issues late in February. Soon, an idea emerged to name the venue after its predecessor, Gabe’s Oasis, which once hosted shows by Nirvana, the Smashing Pumpkins, and Dinosaur Jr.

Now, the new Gabe’s, 330 E. Washington, (which does not retain previous management or talent buyers from the old bar) will open to the public at 7 p.m. today and celebrate with a show byJake Dilley and the Color Pharmacy and Daphne Willis, followed by a performance from comedic rock act the Flavor Savers on Saturday.

Talent buyer Andrew Edmark, 22, said though it was a challenge to quickly renovate (new additions include a DJ stage downstairs, artwork by local artists on the walls, and a brand-new sound system upstairs), perhaps the most difficult issue promoters encountered was backlash from using the “Gabe’s” name.

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While that announcement was met with mostly positive response on the venue’s Facebook page (which has 2,882 fans as of press time), some former workers and fans of the Gabe’s Oasis contend that the use of the name is a gimmick that will trick old fans into thinking the venue can recreate the past.

Longtime Gabe’s Oasis talent buyer, Doug Roberson, who now books bands for the Blue Moose Tap House, said he always likes to see new music venues around town but thinks that the owners’ use of “Gabe’s” is disingenuous.

“It’s kind of like a bait-and-switch,” said Roberson, 48. “It’s not like we’re going to walk in the front door to Gabe’s and enter a time machine where we’re all 15 years younger.”

Roberson said the main reason Gabe’s Oasis was so successful was because it had three booking agents with lots of connections, enabling it to put on quality shows. He also said many people saw it as a cool place to hang out and have a drink — a trait he thinks the Picador lost.

Edmark said he is willing to discuss the issue with anyone who disagrees. He also noted the venue is bringing back former Gabe’s Oasis bartender Craig Owsley to serve up some drinks and stories of old.

“We just want to get people in there and let them know Gabe’s is back in the sense we are putting on really good music shows,” Edmark said. “This isn’t a money grab, it’s not a gimmick, it’s just a genuine effort to recreate Iowa City’s best venue.”

Longtime Gabe’s Oasis attendee, Taryn Knight, 41, said she still frequents Iowa City’s music joints and she is looking forward to checking out the new Gabe’s. She thinks the decision to use the name makes sense, because everyone still thinks of the space as being Gabe’s Oasis.

Recent UI graduate Josh Hoffman, 23, who previously helped out at the Picador, said he is against bringing back the name because there have been too many changes made to the venue over the years.

“They’re trying to pass it off as a total throwback to Gabe’s Oasis, but most of the people that knew it back then are being misled, I believe,” he said.

Edmark said he just wants people to come out and give Gabe’s a fair opportunity in Iowa City.

“All we’re asking for is a chance,” he said. “If we fail, obviously it’s on our heads.”

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