Hawkeyes broadcaster to lend name to new Millwork District bar

Promo poster Gary Dolphin's Iron Bar in the Novelty Iron Works building in Dubuque's Millwork District. PHOTO CREDIT: Dave Kettering

A new incarnation of a Millwork District bar will bear the name of a broadcasting legend and debut just in time for the kickoff of the Iowa football season.

Gary Dolphin’s Iron Bar is under construction and is slated to open the weekend of Oct. 24 within the Novelty Iron Works building, 333 E. 10th St. in Dubuque

The new amenity bears the name of Dubuque County resident and longtime radio broadcaster Gary Dolphin, who is well known as the voice of the University of Iowa’s football and men’s basketball teams.

“Over the years, I have probably been asked a half-dozen times to put my name on a sports bar,” he said. “This seemed like the right opportunity. The goal is to create a bar that is unique and classy but also has that sports-bar component to it.”

For those who have visited the Novelty Iron Works building, the Iron Bar moniker is not entirely new.

The Iron Bar debuted in late 2017. However, it only offered sporadic hours over the past three years, primarily opening to serve large weddings or other events taking place within the building.

The revamped version of the bar will feature upgrades, including a vast array of memorabilia and artwork related to both Dolphin and the University of Iowa.

Sections of the business will include various themes. The “Press Box” will offer seating for groups of a half-dozen or more and be adorned with a photo taken from the press box of Kinnick Stadium. Meanwhile, “Dolph’s Den” will be a private area, available to groups, that features a poker table, open bar and other amenities.

The space formerly known as Iron Bar will retain its quiet, laid-back atmosphere, with leather furniture and no televisions.

However, the venue also will spill over into the adjoining main lobby and nearby courtyard of the Novelty Iron Works Building. Dolphin explained that these areas will incorporate a sports-bar feeling and embrace the gameday experience.

The courtyard will feature a 13-foot wide “jumbotron” that will show Iowa Hawkeye football games and other sporting events. Dolphin envisions the space being utilized in ways that are unrelated to sports as well.

“I think we could use that space to show concerts or movies when the games are not on,” said Dolphin, who is one of multiple shareholders investing in the bar.

Officials initially planned to open the venue in September but had a difficult time lining up contractors to work on the project, largely because many are tied up in an active housing market.

The timing should work out just fine, however.

Dolphin envisions the bar being open for Iowa’s Oct. 24 season opener against Purdue. On that same weekend, former Hawkeye Marvin McNutt will appear at Gary Dolphin’s Iron Bar and greet customers.

Dolphin himself will be out of town covering the game.

“I will be calling in to say hello to everybody,” he said.

The bar will not operate solely during large events.

Dolphin said it will operate seven days per week, although the ramp-up to full hours depends on business levels during the pandemic. A half-dozen workers already have been hired, and around 15 eventually will be employed there.

Dolphin’s name is well known in Dubuque for a variety of reasons.

In addition to his work as a broadcaster, he formerly served as vice president for business development at U.S. Bank in Dubuque. He also volunteered with multiple local nonprofit organizations.

Dolphin said his interest in the building is a big part of what sealed his commitment to his latest project.

“I am a huge history buff, particularly as far as architecture is concerned,” he said. “I think the Novelty Iron Works building is the perfect venue for this concept.”

In what has been a tumultuous year for businesses throughout Dubuque, Gary Dolphin’s Iron Bar is one of multiple positive developments within the building.

Vivie Boutique opened early this summer, and a high-end consignment shop opened soon afterward.

Audrey Wallis Interiors, which bears the name of its owner, opened in late July.

Wallis said the shop offers artwork, lamps, tables, chairs and sofas and other furniture and decor.

“We’ve had some people from the apartments above (within the Novelty Iron Works building) buying our items, and we’ve had people who are from out of the state and visiting Dubuque,” Wallis said. “It has been a nice mix.”

Wallis said she also operates her own interior design business out of that space.

She feels that the opening of Dolphin’s Iron Bar will contribute to the foot traffic and sense of excitement in the building.

“(The building) is already very busy with weddings, and we’re looking forward to even more activity here soon,” she said.