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Fire sparks business

BY ALEX HANAFAN | JUNE 24, 2014 5:00 AM

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Even during the hot summer days, locals still need their breakfast fix.

With the Hamburg Inn No. 2, 214 N. Linn St., closed for the past several weeks, many people have crowded into other restaurants to satisfy their hunger.

The Hamburg fire was caused by the spontaneous ignition of rags and laundry in the basement in the middle of May, and that has cost the business. The restaurant potentially could open next weekend, once the plumbing is finished in the basement, owner Dave Panther said.

The Bluebird Diner, 330 E. Market St., has been packed with Iowa City locals lining up for hearty meals. Manager Lindsay Chastain said she has noticed a significant increase in sales since the fire, but she does not know an exact percentage.

“There are a number of regulars coming in who used to be regulars at the Hamburg,” she said.

Chastain said many new customers have mentioned that it is their first time trying the Bluebird. She also said these customers have been forthright and have asked Bluebird employees if they know when the Hamburg Inn will be open for business.

Iowa City local Pat Schmidt said she has noticed an “overflow of people from the Hamburg Inn” head to the Bluebird for breakfast instead. Schmidt said the Bluebird usually isn’t so busy on the weekdays.

“I don’t think it’s ever been so busy on a Monday,” she said.

Panther said that the summer season is usually a good time for Hamburg Inn, and he said he thinks the restaurant will do fine once the word gets out about the opening. He said he believes he will get his regular customers will come back and sales will jump back to normal.

“Depending on the day, we usually rake in several thousands of dollars,” Panther said.

Chastain said the weekdays have been more crowded than usual throughout the past month.
High Ground, 301 E. Market St., manager Wesley Ward said he hasn’t seen a large change in the number of daily customers or increase of sales because it is the summertime and generally small businesses become more “stale.”

However, customers are looking for more than just coffee.

“I’ve noticed a lot more customers have been asking if we sell full breakfast-food items,” Ward said.

Ward said people have come in asking if they can get hot breakfast foods for a dine-in experience, but the coffee shop only sells quick-eats such as muffins and pastries along with coffee.

Nancy Bird, the executive director of the Iowa City Downtown District, said she believes people miss going to the Hamburg and are hopeful that the owner can get whatever he needs to get back on his feet.

“People are anxious for the business to reopen,” Bird said.

Panther previously told The Daily Iowan that Hamburg Inn would only be closed for three weeks to fix more than $30,000 worth of damages. But because of the extensive amount of renovation, it will take longer than expected for a reopening.

“We’re hoping we might be able to open within the next few weeks,” he said.


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