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.
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.”
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.”