116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — In a world full of bars for normies, The Roxxy stands out with its new Iowa City location, where you can let your freak flag fly.
The concept from Paramount Bar Company brings the wacky, the weird and the wild together in a departure from the decor trope of many bars that slap a few beer signs and license plates on the walls and call it a day.
The new offering from the Cedar Falls-based company, which opened The Stuffed Olive next door in June, is the second opening for The Roxxy, following its original Cedar Falls location. The new site opened in November on Iowa City’s Ped Mall.
From the moment you walk in, eye candy awaits at every turn in a visually stimulating space that makes the food and drinks more of an accessory.
“Bars can feel cluttered. All of our places are set pieces and make you feel different inside,” said Aaron Schurman, co-owner of Paramount Bar Company. “I want people to feel great — that they can do anything.”
What: The Roxxy
Where: 127 E. College St., Iowa City
Hours: 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday
Phone: (319) 855-5979
It starts with a giant set of Tibetan prayer wheels affixed to the wall by the entrance, where patrons give and receive a blessing of love before embarking on their journey at the bar.
To the left, a set of six garishly-framed, vertically mounted TVs line the wall like a museum. Displayed on the TVs is a set of custom-made art by Kent Stowe, a graphic artist and longtime affiliate of Schurman and Darin Beck, president of Paramount Bar Company.
With a new retro theme every week, the set of six pieces of art changes each Monday. No piece is displayed more than once.
Make your way over to the bar, where the biggest piece of art is suspended over your head — a chandelier of electric guitars, made with 3D spatial software hanging from five weight-balanced, aircraft cables.
A look to the left envelops you with the “weird wall” of framed art. A look to the right reveals the ’80s themed wall — a decade remembered for its inherent eccentricity.
On the wall behind the bar, cubbies hold a stuffed raccoon with a tiara, a leg lamp from “A Christmas Story,” a can of defunct Hawkeye Gold soda, and placemakers that will transport viewers back to a different era.
By the dance floor, a wall lined with thousands of cassette tapes serves as a backdrop for selfies. Over the dance floor, a drum set is suspended to match the vibes set by the guitar chandelier.
Transitioning from a set of streamers leading away from the TVs is a ceiling clouded with vinyl records cut into butterflies. In the corner, a moon with a nefarious face watches over the dance floor.
Most of Stowe’s custom pieces somehow convene without clashing.
If you haven’t found a pattern in the decor yet, rest assured that’s by design. The only common thread throughout every piece meticulously selected for The Roxxy is embracing the weirdness and uniqueness that makes life interesting.
“Each thing makes someone get out of their box and get weird. I think it’s so cool to be able to celebrate that with everybody,” Schurman said. “You can dance how you want to dance, talk how you want to talk, dress how you want to dress. It just brings the weird out.”
And when people get weird, the best connections are made, he said.
In the former space held by Martinis, Beck said the bar takes on a different personality depending on the time of week.
Inspired by a concert of The Spazmatics in Austin, Texas, Schurman said weirdness is where the best ideas come from. It was a guiding principle for building his tech company, SciPlay — the only company built in Black Hawk County that stayed after going public.
Beck was the business partner who was able to accept that vision and build on it with him.
Food and drinks
If the visual trip of the space isn’t enough, a full menu of themed cocktails, shots and bottle service should enhance the experience.
Popular options include the Roxx & Roll, served in a souvenir glass with Smirnoff Vanilla and Raspberry Schnapps; the Material Girl made with Malibu rum and pineapple juice; and Purple Rain with grape pucker.
Burgers and homemade chips, tacos, wings and other bar fare also are available.
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