Dubuque taproom plans another downtown expansion, new restaurant

A popular Dubuque taproom is expanding in a well-known downtown building, with plans to open a new restaurant.

Backpocket Dubuque, 333 E. 10th St., is set to lease additional space in the Novelty Iron Works building that previously was filled by Gino’s East, a pizza restaurant that closed earlier this year.

Backpocket owner Jake Simmons said the new space initially will be used for event rentals and later turned into a new restaurant. The addition marks the taproom’s second expansion this year.

“We didn’t necessarily set out three months ago to expand again so soon, but an opportunity came up and we took it,” Simmons said. “There’s already a really good vibe going on in the building, so we just want to grow that even further.”

The expansion was driven, in part, by the need for a larger kitchen, Simmons said. Backpocket recently expanded its menu, and its existing kitchen has struggled to meet demand.

The kitchen in the former Gino’s location abuts the taproom’s current culinary space, and it will be used to expand capacity for Backpocket orders. The seating in the area also allows for more event rentals.

“We have a pretty robust event-booking business, so for the most immediate use, we’re going to make that area into a private restaurant option for people booking holiday parties,” Simmons said.

Later on, the space will be turned into a restaurant that is separate, but complementary to the Backpocket brand. Stakeholders are still “brainstorming” plans for the space, Simmons said, so its concept and menu are not yet finalized.

“We’d like to have something that encourages people to stop by Backpocket, play a few games or drink a few beers but that also offers something a little different in terms of food and entertainment,” he said.

Backpocket Dubuque opened in 2017 and has expanded several times since, including the addition of a retro arcade in 2019. The taproom added duckpin bowling earlier this year as part of an expansion.

Danielle Jacobs, executive director of Dubuque Main Street, said she was “excited” but unsurprised by news of the expansion, lauding in particular the addition of another downtown restaurant.

“It’s a great thing for the historic Millwork District to have a business that’s already proven successful take over more space,” she said. “We’re pretty lucky to have them because we know they’re going to do a great job.”

Reservations for the temporary rental space start at $300, Simmons said, and rental information is available online at backpocketdubuque.com.