CORONAVIRUS

Uptown Bill's leaves Iowa City building after economic impact of coronavirus

Coffee shop aims to provide online concerts

Customers read and drink coffee at Uptown Bill's Coffee House and Neighborhood Art Center soon after it moved into 730 S
Customers read and drink coffee at Uptown Bill's Coffee House and Neighborhood Art Center soon after it moved into 730 S. Dubuque St. in 2010. (The Gazette)
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After nearly 20 years of supporting various communities in Iowa City, Uptown Bill’s Coffee House and Neighborhood Art Center will vacate its Dubuque Street location.

According to a Facebook post Thursday morning, the shop had decided to leave the 730 S. Dubuque St. due to the last three months of little to no income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and orders by Gov. Kim Reynolds that shuttered a number of businesses in Iowa.

The shop hopes to remain available for patrons through online concerts.

As a 501-3C nonprofit since 2001, the center has not had the opportunity to raise funds or receive donations, such as during the 5k River Run, making it hard to pay rent and other obligations.

Mary Vasey, president of Uptown Bill’s board, said the focus of Uptown Bill’s has been to provide jobs to individuals with disabilities and provide a gathering place for people of all ages and abilities.

The shop has been best known outside Iowa City for Bill Sackter, who ran Wild Bill’s Coffee shop on the University of Iowa campus from 1975 to 1983. In 1983, Mickey Rooney starred in a made-for-TV movie, “Bill: On His Own,” as Sackter.

“Like all nonprofits, there is a financial burden of some sort,” Vasey said. “We don’t try to charge for any of our meeting rooms, but (frequent guests) do make donations.”

Vasey said the not-for-profit still plans to host online concerts for patrons.

“It is COVID-19 that has brought us to this,” Vasey said.

Kathy Maxe, a musician who enjoyed the live music at Uptown Bill’s for many years, said that space has provided her and her partner an opportunity to become more involved in the live music scene. However, the nonprofit still plans to host online concerts for patrons.

“It was so inclusive, there was nothing like it,” Maxe said.

Comments: (319) 398-8372; alexandra.skores@thegazette.com

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