Micky's Pub Gets a Facelift, Proposing Unique Outdoor Dining Option

By Vanessa Miller, Reporter

Mickey's Irish Pub, downtown Iowa City.

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By Kara Kelly

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- For anyone with fond memories of singing – or just shouting – the Iowa fight song inside Micky’s Irish Pub and Grill on the eve of a game day, rest assured, the song is not over.

The historic bar, which was shuttered about a month ago after its owner walked away from the lease, is only closed temporarily as it gets a facelift.

Jim Mondanaro, who owns the building that houses Micky’s, said renovations he has planned for the legendary establishment will give it new life.

“We are completely redoing the whole interior,” Mondanaro said. “It’s going to have the same charm, yet be completely cleaned up.”

He hopes to have the bar reopened by Sept. 1.

Micky’s has been in Iowa City for 72 years and in its current location at 11 South Dubuque St. since 1980.

Mondanaro said much of the remodel will be improvements on the bar’s popular theme and atmosphere. Still, Mondanaro said, he is proposing a few new ideas, including an innovative way to do outdoor dining.

Mondanaro said he plans to ask the Iowa City Council to let him build a style of outdoor seating at Micky’s that has been used in Birmingham, Mich. There, city leaders approved outdoor dining platforms that hoist tables off the ground and move them to the outside of the sidewalk, taking up parking spaces on the street.

Mondanaro said discussions for that idea are in the early stages.

“We’re showing the city a new approach to outdoor dining,” he said. “There is a segment of this that’s unique and hasn’t been done in Iowa City. We’ll see if it’s plausible.”

Micky’s previous owner Robert “Louie” de Blois worked at the eatery as a chef and manager before buying it from Mondanaro and his wife in 2010, according to the restaurant’s website. De Blois closed the bar earlier this year.

Mondanaro said he’s had plenty of offers for the space.

“There have been a lot of people asking if I’d sell it,” he said. “But what I’m interested in is the integrity of Micky’s.”

So Mondanaro and his wife are overseeing the remodel, making sure the inside – including a new bar, new bathrooms and new kitchen equipment – is updated to their liking and even reviewing the menu.

When that’s done, Mondanaro said, he and his wife will sell the business to someone wanting to continue the tradition.

“This is a stop in time for Micky’s – it’s getting ready for another 30-year run,” Mondanaro said, adding that establishments like Micky’s have to undergo remodels from time to time. “There is so much life to them, and they get tired. You have to breathe life back into them.”

“When you see what we’re doing with the bar, it’s going to be drop-dead gorgeous,” he said.

He noted Micky’s has sold nearly 50,000 T-shirts and sweatshirts over the years. Mondanaro said he doesn’t expect to have any trouble finding new ownership.

“I’ve had a dozen inquiries, and as it gets closer, I expect that to be even more,” he said.

De Blois couldn’t be reached for comment on this story.

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