Biz Buzz: Dubuque venue reopens; technology company opens new location; plans for new medical facility

Biz Buzz shares business tidbits from around the tri-state area. This week, we highlight developments in Dubuque and Stockton, Ill.

A popular downtown event venue and bar reopened its doors over the weekend after a pair of prolonged closures prompted by COVID-19.

Smokestack, 62 E. Seventh St. in Dubuque, hosted rooftop reopening parties Friday and Saturday to welcome back customers.

“We are excited, but there is a little trepidation,” said co-owner Susan Price ahead of the events. “At this point, we cannot really afford to stay closed. We need to remain open.”

The challenges faced by Smokestack in recent months are a microcosm of what has faced event venues, bars and restaurants throughout the tri-states over the past six months.

Price said Smokestack initially closed in mid-March in accordance with the mandate that shut down bars and restaurants throughout Iowa.

The venue reopened in late May and continued doing business for more than a month. However, as the Fourth of July holiday approached, and local coronavirus cases surged, Price and co-owner Scott Cornwell reconsidered.

The couple opted to cancel events and live shows in early July and then closed the business altogether in the middle of that month.

“We were fearful of having a super-

spreader event,” Price recalled. “The safety of our staff and customers is the most important thing.”

Price and Cornwell now hope they can strike a balance between being open and keeping patrons safe.

They believe that certain characteristics of their venue could make it a relatively safe place to convene amid the pandemic.

It includes an expansive rooftop space — which hosted the reopening parties last weekend — as well as indoor space with an enhanced ventilation system.

Smokestack will open at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. It will also be open for special events.

Customers can learn more at


A company specializing in systems integration and technology solutions has moved to a new location in Dubuque.

Communications Engineering Co. — known as CEC — opened a Dubuque office in 2002. It started with just two employees in Dubuque and now employs 20 workers locally.

To accommodate the growing staff, CEC in August moved to 4099 McDonald Drive.

“In terms of space and visibility, it is a leap forward,” said CEO Kim Lehrman.

CEC has offices throughout the Midwest and offers solution design, integration and technical services specializing in audio/video, fire and security, health care communications, information technology and two-way communications.

Company leaders believe that CEC’s offerings have even more value as society grapples with COVID-19. Lehrman noted that the company can help school districts as they incorporate hybrid learning and assist companies aiming to create work-from-home environments.

“We feel we are helping customers with issues that are top-of-mind at this time,” Lehrman said.

CEC Communication will offer an open house at its new location from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Oct. 15.

The company can be reached at 563-690-0747


A health care provider based in Freeport, Ill., plans to build a new family facility in Stockton.

FHN soon will commence work on a new facility just off of U.S. 20 and South Park Road, north of Stockton High School, according to a press release.

Construction is slated to begin this fall, and the facility should be ready to open by the middle of 2021.

The new building will replace the current FHN Family Healthcare Center at 725 N. Pearl St.

It will be significantly larger than the existing facility, allowing staff to incorporate more state-of-the-art technology, including telehealth and digital X-ray capability. The additional space also means the facility will be able to accommodate more specialty service appointments, the release noted.

FHN has 19 locations in Stephenson, Jo Daviess, Ogle, Carroll and Winnebago counties. Its regional offices offer primary care, while most of FHN’s specialists are located in Freeport.