Duct tape, plastic tarp and dust-caked drapes shutter the front door and windows of the old Musicians Union Local 67 headquarters in downtown Davenport.
The vacant building has seen better days, but a creative crew of entrepreneurs is converting the space at 304 E. 3rd St. into a neighborhood tavern and performance venue.
If the remodel stays on track, business partners Dan Bush, co-owner of Analog Arcade Bar, and Daytrotter founder Sean Moeller plan to host their first party at the landmark on St. Patrick’s Day in March.
The future pub, dubbed Triple Crown Whiskey Bar & Raccoon Motel, will possess a lot of the site’s original, now-grungy charm, said Bush, who stressed their spot will not mirror any nearby craft cocktail bars.
“We’re not trying to create another one of those,” Bush, 33, said, sitting on the steps of the site’s recently built stage. “It’s definitely not going to be upscale.”
'It's going to feel alive'
Once they secure a liquor license, the owners plan to stock up and eventually serve a variety of whiskeys and canned beers, as well as wine and other spirits.
The 1,300-square-foot venue, complete with a 10- by 14-foot stage for visiting musical and comedic acts, will hold a maximum of about 60 people, Bush said. They hope to routinely pack the house for “intimate” shows.
“It’s going to be high quality — people you’d never see in a place this small,” Moeller chimed in. “It’s going to feel alive.”
Meanwhile, Rich Cooksey, Bush’s father-in-law, is leading the renovation work, which began last month. The 56-year-old retired UPS driver also completed the buildout for Analog, which opened at 3rd and Brady streets in October 2015.
About a year later this October, Bush and Cooksey purchased three adjoining properties at the corner of East 3rd Street and Pershing Avenue for a little more than $320,000, according to the Scott County Assessor’s Office.
They plan to gut the 4,800-square-foot building directly to the north of the future whiskey bar and open a bar/restaurant there this summer at 315 Pershing Ave.
Bush would not disclose any further details about the second phase and said plans for the third building at 308 E. 3rd St. are on the back burner for now.
The entire million-dollar-plus development, Bush predicts, will complement the historic and luxury Hotel Blackhawk, located just west of their property.
“Ultimately, we’re excited about it because we think this is the last eyesore of east downtown,” he said. “When (Hotel Blackhawk) guests look across the street and see boarded up buildings, it’s kind of depressing, so we’re hoping to change that and make this whole place more of a destination.”
The investors, including 28-year-old Devon Wiese, who manages Analog's day-to-day operations, said they’re creating a “time warp” on the block.
Cooksey spelled out the concept for Triple Crown:
“The idea is that basically somebody locked this bar up in 1973, and all we did was unlock the door, put some beer in the cooler and open just as they left it,” he said.
Food trucks, too
To ease the transition, the team has applied for financial assistance through Davenport's Urban Revitalization Tax Exemption program. To qualify, they must increase the value of the property by 10 percent.
Today, county records list the assessed value of 304 E. 3rd St., which was built in 1932, at $40,050.
A series of service and filling stations occupied the place for decades before the Tri-City Musical Society moved there in 1979. The Quad-City chapter of the American Federation of Musicians remained until 2014, according to listings in the Polk City Directory.
On the exterior of the corner lot, they have 3,500-square-feet of space where they plan to build a patio and host a few regular food trucks.
"I think it will be a really good lunch spot, especially if two or three trucks come here, because there aren’t a lot of quick options to eat downtown," said Bush, who owns a roaming grilled cheese truck coined Static Melt. "Even if we're not open, we're open to having food trucks open in our lot."
This venture marks Bush and Moeller's first project together, and it could be a sign of things to come.
Moeller, 38, resigned from Daytrotter, the independent music platform he started a decade ago, in July and since has kept busy promoting shows and the upcoming GAS Feed & Seed Festival in the Village of East Davenport.
Once Triple Crown Whiskey Bar & Raccoon Motel opens, Moeller, who takes credit for the varmint element in the name, said he'll move his office to the saloon.
"We've always wanted to work together, so this makes sense," he said. “It’s probably just the start.”