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Hamburg's Only Restaurant Prepares To Reopen After Flooding

A southwest Iowa restaurant damaged by last spring’s flooding is preparing to make a comeback.
Vicki Sjulin, one of the owners of Blue Moon Bar and Grill in Hamburg, was outside cleaning toilets last week. A couple of her friends, including Jeff Anderson, were hanging out and giving her extra hands. Sjulin aims to reopen her restaurant the day after Labor Day.

“I can tell ya, if this does not open, more people will be leaving this town,” Anderson said. “There’s nowhere to go to eat. You have to go out of town anyway. Why not move? That’s what some people will do.”

“We’ve already lost a lot of people,” Sjulin chimed in. “There’s no housing.”

Blue Moon Bar and Grill is the only bar and restaurant in Hamburg. The business’s two buildings were inundated with at least 3 feet of water from the Missouri River flooding last spring.  It has been closed since mid-March. 

"Not only have we lost everything, we're reinvesting part of our retirement money that we still have back into the business to try to get it open again." -Blue Moon Bar and Grill owner Vicki Sjulin

The restaurant has been in Sjulin’s family since 1972. Her mom and dad bought an old bar business. They launched it as a beer joint and added a kitchen. Sjulin later took over the business, sold it in 1993 during the flood, and got it back six years later. People tend to go there for a drink, a charbroiled burger and tenderloins, among other things. 

In addition to serving food and drinks, the restaurant functions as a multipurpose venue. Sjulin and her husband Eric use the restaurant to hold benefits, auctions, weddings and even birthday parties and karaoke. It’s also the kind of place where farmers like to go and talk about life, Sjulin said.

“They come in at noon. We pretty much know where they’re going to sit, what they’re going to drink and for the most part, what they’re going to order,” Sjulin said. “It’s a staple. It’s a community social place. They all meet, you know, talk about the crops.”

Sjulin said she’s working hard to bring the business back. They only got a small loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration, so they're dipping into their savings.

“Not only have we lost everything,” Sjulin said, “We’re reinvesting part of our retirement money that we still have back into the business to try to get it open again.”

Sjulin bought booths and chairs from a Perkins Restaurant that closed weeks ago. She has installed a new kitchen and is waiting for an electrician to wire it. She’s getting one of the two buildings ready for a couple of inspections – things like electricity, fire and a food inspection.

Her priority is reopening the reception area of her business. She said they’ll focus on the bar area, in the second building after they get the reception area open. The building that houses the bar was inundated with six to seven feet of water, sustaining more damage.

“If this town’s going to recover, it needs a social event place,” Sjulin said. “It needs a bar and a restaurant.”

Katie Peikes is IPR's agriculture reporter