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Hamburg Inn No. 2 closes ‘for physical and spiritual repairs,’ will reopen by February




Hamburg Inn No. 2, 214 N Linn St, Iowa City, sits closed on Dec. 30, 2022. — Genevieve Trainor/Little Village

Hamburg Inn No. 2 has closed for maintenance, but should reopen next month, the restaurant’s new manager told Little Village on Monday.

“We need to tear up the basement floor to fix a crushed sewer line,” Manager Joseph Mulvihill said.

On Dec. 30, managers of the Hamburg Inn said that due to a series of ongoing problems, including maintenance issues, the restaurant would close “indefinitely” after Jan. 8. The problems they cited included the broken sewer line, which left Hamburg Inn with no working toilets, and the restaurant not making enough money to cover operating expenses or continue paying the staff.

“The bottom line is I can’t stay open if I can’t pay my employees and I’m not going to ask them to work for free,” Ajax Ehl, the then-manager told the Press-Citizen on Dec. 30. Ehl had worked at the restaurant for 18 years before becoming manager earlier in 2022.

Ehl said he was uncertain whether or when the restaurant would reopen because he had been unable to contact owner Michael Lee for an extended period of time. Lee was reported to be traveling and out of the country.

The following day, an attorney representing Lee issued a statement saying Hamburg Inn was not closing, but would be “operating at reduced hours … for the next few weeks to make updates.”

“There are no plans to close the restaurant,” the attorney said.

On Sunday, Lee’s attorney issued another written statement saying, “it has been discovered that there are maintenance issues that will require the restaurant to close temporarily for repairs.”

“Michael is working with a construction crew and this work has already begun,” according to the statement. “Due to these issues, the Hamburg Inn restaurant will be closed temporarily for physical and spiritual repairs, and will reopen by February 1, 2023 in time for Valentine’s Day.”

Plumbers park outside of a closed Hamburg Inn and prepare for major sewer line repairs on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. — Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

The latest statement also addressed the issue of whether the staff has been fully paid.

“We have learned some, or maybe all, of the employees were not given pay checks,” the statement said, explaining that Lee was working with the restaurant’s accounting firm to determine who may have not been paid. Those who weren’t paid will receive their missing wages via direct deposit, according to the statement.

Although the latest statement confirmed the problems managers cited on Dec. 30 when they announced the indefinite closure, it also announced Hamburg Inn is under new management.

The previous managers “were let go because they decided to close the restaurant without talking to Michael,” Mulvihill said Monday morning.

Mulvihill comes to the job already having experience running Hamburg Inn.

“I was here until eight months ago, when I left to pursue other avenues,” he said. “Michael gave me a call and said he needed help and that’s why I’m here.”

Michael Lee bought Hamburg Inn No. 2 in 2016 from the Panther family, who opened the restaurant in 1948.

Lee has frequently talked about plans for expanding the iconic Iowa City eatery beyond its one location, and possibly even franchising it. At the time of the purchase, Lee told the Gazette he was considering opening a second location in his hometown of Shanghai. That didn’t happen, but in September 2017 he did open a second location, also called Hamburg Inn No. 2, on Iowa City’s east side. That location closed in February 2020.


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