A fire in the basement of the Hamburg Inn No. 2, 214 N. Linn St., caused substantial damage to the restaurant in the early morning hours Sunday.
By Quentin Misiag
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa City Fire Department officials are investigating a fire that broke out early Sunday morning at Hamburg Inn No. 2.
Brian Platz, the battalion chief for the Iowa City Fire Department, said crews arrived on scene to the diner, 214 N. Linn St., in the North Side Marketplace shortly after 1 a.m. Sunday upon receiving a report that smoke was in the building.
Platz said crews first identified smoke on the first floor of the two-story structure before locating a fire in the basement.
According to Iowa City’s Daily Activity report, fire crews were first dispatched at 12:58 a.m. Sunday to the restaurant for “smoke out of the top of the building.”
A second report was filed and a second fire dispatch was made at 1:09 a.m. for “smoke filling windows.”
Platz said he had been notified of reports that the residents of the second floor apartments had evacuated the building.
No injuries have been reported from the incident.
Most of the damage has been confined to the basement of the 66-year-old restaurant, Platz said, adding that officials experienced difficulty due to the numerous entrances to the building.
While the degree of damage is unknown, Platz said he doesn’t anticipate the storied Iowa City business having trouble coming back from the fire.
“There is some substantial damage in the basement, but it’s not damage they won’t be able to come back from,” he said.
Officials with the Iowa City Fire Department and the Iowa City police Department initially blocked off Linn Street from Market Street north to the alley between Market and Bloomington Streets in the early morning hours.
As of 4 a.m. Sunday, that stretch, which cuts through the heart of the North Side Marketplace had reopened.
Smells of smoke lingered outside the restaurant and neighboring businesses.
It is not yet clear if nearby buildings have also sustained damage.
Hamburg Inn No. 2 owner David Panther told The Daily Iowan he received a call from an employee around 1:10 a.m. that smoke was coming out of the building.
When he arrived, Panther said, fire and police officials were on the scene.
The source of the fire was initially thought to be a soft-drink compressor located in the building’s basement, Panther said. Late on the evening of May 17, Panther said, employees were experiencing troubles with the compressor smoking and chose to unplug the machine.
“They thought they solved the issue,” he said.
The resulting blaze burned through electrical and water pipes that may push damage estimates to “tens of thousands of dollars after factoring closing [the restaurant temporarily],” Panther estimated. The restaurant’s front door, which faces Linn Street, was busted out by officials during the process.
“The [basement] ceiling’s all charred and black. The floor’s got about eight holes in it,” he said. “Your eyes just steam when you’re in there.”
When asked if and when the longtime Iowa City business would reopen, Panther said to expect delays. The building suffered a large fire in 1994 that began in the back of the building and shut down the restaurant for approximately three months, he said.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we were closed for two weeks to a month,” Panther said.
The Hamburg, as it is known locally, has been host to many major political figures, including Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. It has also been featured in a “West Wing” episode.
Stay with The Daily Iowan as this story develops.
Click here to see a Storify timeline of the fire.