Yacht Club reopens after water damage


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Since 2002, the Yacht Club has been a pillar supporting Iowa City's live-music scene. The venue features music six nights a week, featuring nationally touring artists and local acts.

But on Sept. 24, the music stopped. The Yacht Club, 13 S. Linn St., was damaged when firefighters attempted to put out a fire at 225 Iowa Ave.

Yacht Club owner Scott Kading was at the venue when he heard about the blaze next door. At first he couldn't believe it, he said, but after seeing the flames, he quickly ushered everyone out of his establishment. Once his bar was clear, he joined a few others on the sidewalk and watched the firefighters work into the morning.

"It got worse until 5 in the morning, and I would have bet that this place would have been gone," he said.

Kading did not return to the Yacht Club to survey the damage until that evening.

"We got up and started tailgating at 9, and we came here after the game, and it was just a disaster," he said.


Kading and Yacht Club manager Pete McCarthy said the water ruined the walls and the floor, and the ceiling was in pieces floating in a few inches of standing water.

"It looked like a war zone and a swamp," Kading said.

Along with structural damage, the venue also lost electronics and all of the production equipment.

"My insurance guy came down and looked around and mumbled to himself and said, 'You're severely under-insured,' and then just walked out the door. So I don't know what'll happen with that," Kading said. "We don't know about the financial stuff; we're not really worrying about it right now."

While it is difficult to gauge exactly how much the damages will turn out to cost, McCarthy estimates the total will be around $30,000.

Kading said work to repair the venue began soon after the Yacht Club was damaged. He heard the continuous pounding of hammers, hum of power drills, and hiss of paint guns from the ground-floor level of the Yacht Club building all week.

Repair work is mostly finished now, and fine-tuning will be done over time, Kading said. And despite the floor being covered in ceiling soup less than three weeks ago, the Yacht Club was able to host a battle of the bands competition last weekend.

One of the bands that participated was Item 9 & the Mad Hatters. Pete Lower, its guitarist, said the band has performed at the Yacht Club around 20 to 30 times in the past two years. After seeing the Yacht Club at his performance Oct. 8, he said if people went there for the first time last weekend, they wouldn't have known the club had been damaged.

"You could only tell something had gone on because a lot of stuff was moved around and rearranged," he said. "And the bathrooms looked a lot nicer. The place looked really good."

This weekend, the Yacht Club will host more shows, including a performance by Dead Larry, an Iowa City band that is moving to Minneapolis. The band has played at the Yacht Club numerous times, and this weekend's event will be the group's going-away party.

But when water damage affected the venue just weeks ago, relocation threatened the band's final Yacht Club show.

"Well honestly, what I heard through he grapevine was that it burned down, so I freaked out," said Joe Scarpellino, a member of Dead Larry. "But then I found out that it was water damage, and I thought that was a little bit better. I wasn't worried, because there are other venues we could have had our last show in Iowa City at, but I would have been really sad if we couldn't have our last show at the Yacht Club because it has been our home away from home here in Iowa City. We love the Yacht Club."

Many members in the Iowa City community share that sentiment about the venue.

"We've been doing this for nine years now, and people dig it," Kading said. "We've been blown away by the support and the well-wishes from the public and bands wanting to do fundraising shows. It's been cool."

Even the men working to repair the bar are doing it partly because they love the venue.

"There was a worker here sweating and just working his butt off saying, 'I gotta get this place open again,' " Kading said.

Kading, who also owns Gabe's, 330 E. Washington St., another downtown music venue, believes that despite the rather extensive damages that Yacht Club experienced, there is a silver lining in the situation.

"The day [of the damage], we had just finished making Gabe's nice, and it wasn't double-booked," he said. "So we moved all of our [Yacht Club] shows down there, and everybody had a great time."

After what the Yacht Club went through, McCarthy has a positive outlook about the ordeal.

"I'm basically like a glass-half-full person," he said. "I think we got really lucky. I got up on the roof of the Yacht Club and saw what happened to the Bruegger's building and the building next door, and it made me feel really lucky. We obviously didn't want it to happen, and we didn't want to have to close. But it gave us a chance to fix the place up a little bit."

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