CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Fellow merchants in the Cedar Rapids NewBo entertainment district hope owners of the Chrome Horse Saloon can recover from a devastating early morning fire. And they’re offering help to both Chrome Horse customers and employees.
The building housing the Chrome Horse dates to 1908 and started out life as an office for an insurance business and a social meeting place for large community events. Several neighbors in the area referred to the business as a “linchpin” for the district — noting the Chrome Horse and earlier bars and music clubs located there were an entertainment draw long before there was even thought of creating a NewBo district.
Mel Andringa, director at the nearby Legion Arts facility, said a restoration is critical because of all the community history in the upper floors of the building.
“It’s important. It still has its balcony and second floor which is generally hidden from the public because it’s a historic piece of the community,” Andringa said.
Jon Jelinek, owner of the nearby Parlor City Pub and Eatery, seconded the idea of restoring the Chrome Horse as soon as possible. Jelinek was an owner of a music club that produced shows in the upstairs space damaged by extensive smoke and water.
He noted the business was also a symbol for all of NewBo because it was drawing people even before the entertainment district took off with lots of growth in recent years.
“It’s an anchor here and definitely, hopefully, they will be rebuilding. I know they’ve got it in their hearts to do it,” Jelinek said
Derek Collins, manager at the Chrome Horse, said at least six wedding parties had space booked in the upstairs banquet room before the fire. He’s now in the process of notifying customers to make other plans.
Other nearby facilities, such as the NewBo City Market, offer space for party events. At least two of the wedding groups scheduled for the Chrome Horse have already called about using that space instead.
Collins said rebuilding will depend on financial considerations including the insurance settlement for the fire.
About 30 full and part time employees worked at the Chrome Horse building. The owners do have some at least one other business and a few might find work there. Neighbors in NewBo said they would also see if there are openings for the Chrome Horse workers at other venues in the area.
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