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The Summit to get new owner

BY ALISON SULLIVAN | APRIL 29, 2011 7:20 AM

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The popular Iowa City restaurant and bar the Summit will likely continue to be a staple of downtown nightlife — but under new ownership.

Mike Porter, known for fighting against the 21-ordinance, is in the process of selling the establishment, 10 S. Clinton St., to 22-year-old businessman Christopher "Topher" Wanek of Des Moines. Porter had owned the business for 10 years.

Both Porter and Wanek said on Thursday that the ownership change should go smoothly as long as the Iowa City City Council approves a liquor-license request from the new owner at its meeting on May 3.

City staff initially recommended denying the liquor license after the bar failed an April 19 inspection. The inspector reportedly found 15 violations in the bar, including water leaks, a missing stair handrail, and storage in front of an exit.

However, on Thursday, the building underwent another inspection, and the inspectors saw that the violations had been corrected, said Tim Hennes, a senior building inspector. This means this city will no longer recommend denial, he said.

Wanek said all necessary paperwork to take possession of the bar is complete and that he's unsure if he'd continue his pursuit of the bar if the council denies the license.

"If I can't sell liquor, then I don't know, there's not really a point to owning a restaurant and bar," he said.

Porter is the former owner of two other downtown establishments that have closed since the 21-ordinance: Vito's and One-Eyed Jakes. Vito's is part of a building recently bought by local developer Marc Moen, who has said he'd like to bring in national retail and open up office space.

Porter said he anticipates changing ownership shortly after the end of the University of Iowa school year.

Wanek said he and Porter have been acquaintances for some time and the potential deal arose out of a conversation the two had last fall.

"He seemed like he was interested in selling, and I was interested in buying," Wanek said, and he's looking forward to the opportunity. "I've always kind of wanted to [own a restaurant]. I'm pretty excited about it."

The Summit has been up for denial before the council before, both because of a high PAULA ratio and Porter's financial troubles.

Wanek said he wants to rejuvenate the business's image, as well as offer a wider array of menu options and extended kitchen hours.

"The bar and restaurant, the Summit, kind of has a name in [Iowa City], and I just want it to be better as far as cleaning it up, and changing some things, and making it one of the better places to go in town," he said.

City Councilor Susan Mims said the change in ownership was expected considering Porter's past financial difficulties. Mims said she isn't sure how the City Council will vote on the license but said councilors will keep their vision for downtown in mind.

"What we are most concerned with from a city perspective is that any of our bar owners downtown — that they're running a business in a responsible, legal, manner," Mims said.

Porter declined to comment on his future plans or the fate of the liquor license. If the license is approved, Porter's sole business will be his liquor store, Sauce, 108 E. College St.

"If [Summit] doesn't get a license, everything is hypothetical after that," Porter said.


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