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La Wine Bar & Restaurant is taking over the former BeerBurger space in downtown Iowa City


La Wine Bar & Restaurant at 180 E Burlington Street. Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

After being home to two short-lived burger joints — Zombie Burger and BeerBurger — the space at 180 E Burlington St is getting a fresh start.

La Wine Bar & Restaurant will bring an Asian-style bar to downtown Iowa City.

“I want to try to make something different,” owner ShanShan Kong told Little Village.

Kong said the bar will have features familiar to anyone who has been to bars in China and Korea that cater to a younger crowd.

“I know there are a lot of students from Asia here, and sometimes they feel things are strange, because the lifestyle here is so different,” Kong said. “But I also want American people to feel at home. I want to introduce them to this kind of fun.”

Plans call for music, both professional (a DJ) and less so (karaoke). There will also be games commonly played in bars in Asia.

“I’ve imported special equipment from China [for the games],” Kong said.

She described the menu as a mixture of American-style and Korean-style bar food.

Kong came to the U.S. from China in 2006 to pursue a master’s degree in international business at a New Hampshire college. She moved to New York City, wanting to start her own business, but found New York too crowded. Listening to a friend living in Iowa describe life here, she decided the state might make a good home.

“I was thinking that in the middle of America there was more room, and more opportunity,” Kong said. “So, I wanted to come here to see. To give it a try.”

Kong moved to Iowa City three years ago. She already owns one business in the city, La Care Spa, and has restaurant experience from jobs she had before moving to Iowa.

La Wine Bar & Restaurant is scheduled to open in early October. Kong said there are already plans for a Halloween party and other special events.

“I want this to be a place where people can really have fun,” she said.


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