The Mill is closing after nearly 60 years in Iowa City

The Mill, 120 E Burlington St — Adam Burke/Little Village

A longtime Iowa City institution is officially closing its doors after 58 years. The announcement was made on the Mill’s Facebook page Thursday afternoon.

The Mill is known for its pizza and spaghetti, vintage pew seating, vine-draped patio and, of course, its performance space. Local music giants including Greg Brown and Dave Zollo cut their teeth performing at the Mill. It has also been a venue for Mission Creek Festival and the Floodwater Comedy Festival, as well as political events from local election debates to presidential candidates. It is the titular stage for the Run of the Mill theater company.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar speaks during a campaign event at The Mill. Saturday, May 4, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Keith Dempster opened the business in 1962, originally as a coffee shop and folk music venue called the Coffee Mill. It moved to its current location at 120 E Burlington St 48 years ago and reopened as the Mill, a restaurant, bar and music venue, hosting everything from trivia night fundraisers for the Emma Goldman Clinic to international bands and comedians.

The Mill nearly closed for good in 2003, but Marty Christensen, then a bassist who’d played numerous shows at the Mill with Zollo, took over the business from Dempster.

“The Mill is a great room for music and an important nexus for creative people,” Christensen told the Daily Iowan in 2012, when the Mill celebrated its 50th anniversary. “I felt like that was a very important mission that needed to be served.”

“You can count on one hand the number of places around here that have lasted 50 years,” added co-owner Dan Ouverson. “The Mill is an institution; it’s part of the heart and soul of Iowa City.”

Rapperchicks on stage at The Mill on New Year’s Eve. Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

The restaurant and performance venue has been closed since May 2, and has not taken to-go orders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In their Facebook post announcing the Mill’s permanent closure, the owners expressed their hope that someone else step up to “take over the mission to preserve this institution.”

Thoughts? Tips? A cute picture of a dog? Share them with LV »

The Future is Unwritten

You look to Little Village for today’s stories. Your sustaining support will help us write tomorrow’s.


$10/mo or $120/year
The cost of doing this work really adds up! Your contribution at this level will cover telephone and internet expenses for one month at the LV editorial offices.


$20/mo or $240/year
$240 is enough to cover one month’s costs for sending out our weekly entertainment newsletter, The Weekender. Make a contribution at this level to put a little more oomph on your support and your weekend.


$30/mo or $360/year
(AUTO-RENEW) connects eastern Iowa culture with the world. Your contribution at this level will cover the site’s hosting costs for three months. A bold move for our boldest supporters!

All monthly and annual contributors receive:

  • Recognition on our Supporters page (aliases welcome)
  • Exclusive early access when we release new half-price gift cards
  • Access to a secret Facebook group where you can connect with other supporters and discuss the latest news and upcoming events (and maybe swap pet pics?) with the LV staff
  • Invitations to periodic publisher chats (held virtually for now) to meet with Matt and give him a piece of your mind, ask your burning questions and hear more about the future plans for Little Village, Bread & Butter Magazine, Witching Hour Festival and our other endeavors.