116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Staying true to the English translation of its name, Popoli Ristorante will reopen in its iconic former bank building Sept. 28 by popular demand after closing last year.
Since the Italian restaurant and Sullivan’s Bar closed on Dec. 20, co-owner Gary Rozek told The Gazette that feedback from customers hoping for a comeback and new circumstances for its catering arm meant that the “timing was right to get back in business.”
“We had built our business on theater events, corporate dining, and we were catering a lot of big parties. None of those things we built the business on were happening at the time we closed down,” Rozek said. “We saw a long, dark winter ahead of us without corporate dining, winter events and business we had expected. But we think some of that’s coming back.”
The restaurant was one of roughly 750 that closed in Iowa during the pandemic, according to the Iowa Restaurant Association.
The restaurant’s soft opening will debut a menu with many old Italian and American favorites in addition to more midpriced options and daily specials management hopes will appeal to more diners.
Starting Sept. 28, the restaurant will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 4 to 10 p.m. at 101 Third Ave. SW, the historic People’s Bank building.
Designed by Louis Sullivan in 1911, the building boasts a “mini museum,” including the restoration of original architectural features and the Vault Room door. The Vault Room and doors, murals, stained glass, chandeliers, teller bars and marble were restored for diners to enjoy when owners Rozek and Fred Timko bought the building from Wells Fargo.
The vault door, which weighs about 50,000 pounds, was painstakingly restored by hand after the flood of 2008, Rozek said.
“We’re really proud of the building, humbled to be able to offer our menu back to our loyal customers and hopefully new ones,” he said. “There’s more buzz going on certainly than there was a year ago.”
The restaurant was first opened in 2014. The building was named to Preservation Iowa’s “Most Endangered Properties” list in 2012 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The history of Louis Sullivan, details of unique features and murals by artist Allen Philbrick are documented for guests to read.
Managing partner Steve Van Fleet has been successful in restaffing the restaurant, including some former employees, despite widespread hiring difficulties in the restaurant industry, Rozek said.
Black Sheep Brewed now open
Black Sheep Brewed, a new cafe across the street from Black Sheep Social Club, opened Sept. 9, according to a social media post.
The cafe in the first floor of the GreatAmerica Building, 625 First St. SE, features Starbucks drinks, breakfast bowls and sandwiches, paninis, salads and sweet treats. Inside seating and free Wi-Fi are available.
Although the extent of the coffee shop’s affiliation with Black Sheep Social Club is unclear, Black Sheep Brewed’s logo includes the same sheep head logo and font used by Black Sheep Social Club.
The cafe is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
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