Summit looks for new reputation


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At the end of their first week back in operation, Summit employees said they hope the physical and managerial renovations will help them achieve a sizeable goal: changing the bar’s notorious reputation.

“The place known as ‘Scummit’ was where the younger crowd went to get their dance on,” said UI senior and Summit bartender Ben Nadler.

Brad Temple became manager in June, when the Summit, 10 S. Clinton St., was handed over to a new owner, Andrew White.

Temple said he remembers a horrible smell that accompanied the atmosphere in the restaurant prior to renovations.

“I don’t really get anybody saying, ‘Where’s the old Summit?’ ” he said.

Temple and White collaborated on revamping the business, which began over the summer.

Aesthetic renovations include new ceilings, refinishing woodwork, and new artwork. Temple said the changes to its atmosphere include trying to cater to an older crowd and not making alcohol the focal point of the business.

Temple, originally from the Des Moines area, said he is familiar with the University of Iowa’s social scene, having gone to every Hawkeye football game before attending the University of Kansas.

Temple recalled being at Summit 11 years ago, before it developed its reputation as a nightlife draw for young students.

“I was in college when this place opened,” he said. “I was sitting in a booth over there thinking, ‘This place is unbelievable.’ ”

Temple said he thinks the past few years of constantly shifting management facilitated the restaurant/bar’s descent into disrepair.

The DI previously reported The Summit had been the most inspected bar by the Iowa City police just this past June, with authorities checking the establishment on 277 different occasions and writing 99 PAULAS at the location over the previous 12 months before closing for renovations.

Former owner Mike Porter was unavailable for comment as of Wednesday evening.

Kelly Bender, the UI campus-community harm reduction initiative coordinator, said she thinks Summit will have to focus on how it serves alcohol in order to move past the reputation.

“If they want to establish a new culture, they just have to sell responsibly,” she said, noting that management has to make sure profits don’t take precedence over social responsibility. “I think the new owner is capable of this.”

Iowa City City Council Councilor Connie Champion said she thinks the notorious reputation can be amended if the management really promotes itself in the community.

“I think they can beat the reputation, but they’re going to have to work on it,” she said.

UI senior John Enigh said he visited the restaurant/bar three times before its new management.

“It’s not a place you want to go, well, wanted to go,” he said, describing the bar pre-renovation as a shady, not very relaxing place.

While Temple declined to go into the specific costs of the renovations, he said it was not cheap.

Although the interior layout of both floors of the restaurant-bar remain essentially the same, the ceilings, floors, upholstery, and woodwork has mostly all been redone and refinished.  Hawkeye emblazoned pool tables were put in, along with many large-screen TVs both upstairs and down.

Jamie Smith, owner of Molly’s Cupcakes, 14 S. Clinton St., said she went into Summit the other day and thought it looked fabulous, though she was unaware of its previous reputation.

“I definitely support their efforts in classing up the place,” she said, as well as catering to an older crowd.

Though Nadler acknowledged that a total name change would have eliminated any ties to the common nickname, “Scummit,” he said it would have required the restaurant to change much of the layout.

“The look of the place didn’t match with the quality of the food,” Nadler said, adding he thinks it has always had the potential to be a classier establishment.

And despite functioning as a bar at night, Temple said, he does not want to push alcohol.

“I want the Summit, and Summit family, to be a part of this community,” he said. “We want to be a positive impact on this community.”

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