You could say Dan Bush and Sean Moeller have a lot going on.
The pair recently “moved in together” — they share an office, coined “The Nerve Center,” in the U.S. Bank building in Davenport.
Minutes before I walked in one day last week, the entrepreneurs had just hit “send” on a Facebook post announcing Turnbuckle, a two-day comedy, music and professional wrestling festival set for Memorial Day weekend at Codfish Hollow in Maquoketa, Iowa.
As they counted the Facebook stats — it was up to a dozen shares — they talked about how many tickets were left for the first-ever shows at Triple Crown Whiskey Bar & Raccoon Motel, a bar and performance venue that Moeller and Bush, along with partners Rich Cooksey and Devon Wiese, teamed up to open.
Two of the three concerts set for opening weekend — which kicks off Thursday — had already sold out.
“It’s a big day here,” Moeller said. “And we have lots more coming. Just wait.”
‘As much as a bar can feel like home’
There’s a bit of mystery surrounding Triple Crown Whiskey Bar & Raccoon Motel, at 304 E. 3rd St., the former Musicians Union Local 67 headquarters in downtown Davenport.
While passersby have seen evidence of construction work over the past months from the outside, the owners are keeping the interior’s look under wraps until Thursday.
“It’s something people have been curious about forever and we want the unveiling to be an actual unveiling with no expectations,” Moeller, who founded Daytrotter and left the company in July, said. “ I don’t think anyone is really ready to walk in there and see what it looks like. People are not going to know what hit them. We want it to be a beautiful moment."
Bush, co-owner of Analog Arcade Bar, and Moeller promise the Q-C’s newest concert spot, which fits about 60 people, will be different from anything else in the area.
“We wanted to create a place that the Q-C doesn’t have,” Moeller said. “It’s a space that feels warm, gritty and lived in and spilled in. We wanted to create the greatest possible environment to have a cocktail and see live music.”
Moeller offers plenty of descriptions: “It’s kind of a hybrid between an old grandpa bar from the 1970s and The Ryman Auditorium,” or “It’s a place you want to just be all the time because you never know what's going to happen” or “It’s going to have that cozy feeling … like as much as a bar can feel like home.”
The place will offer more than 100 types of whiskey, cans of beer and wine as well pizzas from Quad-City original Mama Bosso. When the weather warms up, crews will work on adding an outdoor patio.
Bush says that the business — which won't have TVs and play vinyl records in the absence of live music — is anything but "pretty or sparkly."
“A lot of my friends are confused because they hear whiskey bar and they think of mahogany and leather seating,” Bush said. “It’s not upscale — it’s the complete opposite of that. It’s really a place to get comfortable.”
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Still, Thursday's opening marks an upgrade for the corner space, which sits across the street from Hotel Blackhawk.
“One of the things we’re most proud of is taking a building that’s been an eyesore for so long and giving it a refresh," Bush said. "We're making it a destination."
Since Moeller left Daytrotter, he’s kept a busy schedule of hosting shows at Baked Beer and Bread Company, The Village Theatre and Codfish Hollow.
He says the intimate size of Triple Crown Whiskey Bar & Raccoon Motel presents a challenge for booking bands.
“That’s where I have to use my charm to get people into that room,” Moeller said. “The goal is to get people that there is no chance you’d ever see in this size venue.”
This weekend, Dent May, Liza Anne and The Deslondes, among others, are set take the stage. Shows are listed through June at raccoonmotel.com.
“These are bands who haven’t played a venue this small in years,” Bush said. “You’re going to see something that probably no one is going to see it again.”
The lineup includes a “special guest” performance from Lissie, the Rock Island born singer-songwriter. After a writing trip in London, she’ll be here just in time Saturday to hop on stage at the new venue.
“Every time I come home, it seems like there’s something new going on,” Lissie, who now lives on a farm in northwest Iowa, said.
“I saw the space a few months back when it was under construction, but you could tell it was going to be really cool and really unlike anything else in the Quad-Cities,” she said. “It’s going to have a real style to it. It’s a place I’d hang out when I’m in town with my friends.”
She’s also making her debut —as an artist and audience member — at Codfish Hollow for its first show of the season.
“Even after a week somewhere else, it seems like I’m always ready to go back to Iowa,” she said.
As far as the Quad-City music scene goes, the Triple Crown Whiskey Bar "takes it to another level," Moeller said.
"I can book any day there in the manner I want," he said. "I’ve never really had that before."
Together, Moeller and Bush plan on raising the bar even more.
“We have a similar idea for the Quad-Cities and what we want it to be,” Bush said. “We throw ideas out all the time of how make this a cooler place to get people to stay. That's our goal."