Owners: Dubuque bar to close unexpectedly when lease not renewed

Gretchen Holl-Potter PHOTO CREDIT: NICKI KOHL

The owners of The Wolfhound bar in downtown Dubuque say it soon will close because its lease was not renewed by their landlord.

The bar opened in April 2019 at 1103 Iowa St., the former home of The Aragon Tap, after more than a year of remodeling. Co-owner Gretchen Holl-Potter told the Telegraph Herald at the time that she was enthusiastic about the location.

“There is a lot of walking traffic down here, and there’s so much excitement,” she said.

But Tuesday afternoon, the bar owners took to social media to announce that it would have to close when their lease ends on Tuesday, March 9. The post lambasted what it called a heartless act of building owner Ken Lin informing them via text message the day before that he would not be renewing the lease.

This led to an outpouring of outrage at the news and support for the bar owners.

Lin, who owns and operates the neighboring Oolong Asian Cuisine, initially told the Telegraph Herald on Wednesday that he would not comment until he spoke to the tenants.

On Wednesday night, he declined to comment again via email, but he sent the Telegraph Herald a notice he had received from a lawyer as the landlord of Two Nine Designs LLC — the business name used by Holl-Potter and Wolfhound co-owner and manager Marty Hess — regarding a $1,141 small claims court judgment against the bar owners for failure to pay a Dubuque contractor for work.

Lin also sent screenshots of social media posts complaining about noise at The Wolfhound by neighborhood residents and dissatisfied guests of the establishment.

Hess said Wednesday that he and Holl-Potter were heartbroken by Lin’s decision on the lease.

“We’re open for not even a year and then COVID(-19) hits,” he said. “We’d much rather have had him do this last March if he was going to. We went through all the different paperwork to stay above water. We see the light at the end of the tunnel, and then this happens.”

Hess said he and Holl-Potter spent more than $100,000 on renovations at The Wolfhound prior to its opening.

At the time of its opening, Holl-Potter said they had constructed a new bar, booths and stage, installed televisions and tore out plaster to reveal original brickwork. The bar’s Facebook post also added redoing floors, adding two bathrooms and making the building accessible to the list.

The business also installed a garage door that can open out to the sidewalk, which became its most prominent feature, unique to the neighborhood.

That, Hess said, was included in the lease and got The Wolfhound $4,000 off the price. He said Lin also agreed to pay for a new heater.

Otherwise, however, Hess and Holl-Potter will be out their investments into the space, Hess said.

Hess admitted to having been late on rent once or twice during the pandemic but insisted the business was paid up now and had been for some time.

Hess said the original lease was for three years, with the potential for a three-year renewal. That first lease is up next week.