New live music venue to replace Blue Moose Tap House

Elray’s Live and Dive is moving into the location once home to music venue the Blue Moose Tap House.


Tate Hildyard

The former location of Blue Moose is seen on Monday. Elray’s live and Dive will open have in the Spring.

Naomi Hofferber, Senior Reporter

One University of Iowa alum is planning to bring Nashville’s live music flavors to the Iowa City music scene.

New music venue Elray’s Live and Dive is set to open in May at 211 Iowa Ave., the former home of Blue Moose Tap House, which closed in September 2019. After over a decade working in the music venue and bar business in Nashville, Bob Franklin decided to return to Iowa City to launch Elray’s, the name of which is a combination of the names of his three children, Eloise, Lou, and Ray.

“It’s always been in the back of my mind, and then when this spot opened up, I knew I wanted to do it,” he said. “We’ll kind of do Nashville style… the way I describe it is live music is part of the experience, not just the experience.”

Franklin said he aims to create a festive, party experience, “like the best house party ever.”

“We’ll do a little bit of everything; country, rock, Americana, pop,” he said. “If it’s live and good, we’ll do it.”

In creating Elray’s, Franklin is making serious changes to the inside of the venue, including the installation of an additional stage to the front, updating the interior, redoing the flooring, adding new sound and lighting systems, and adding a new bar to the back room.

The back half, he said, will be called the Dancehall Dive, with a dance floor and quality sound system.

Mike Saleh, a UI sophomore and former Blue Moose employee, said he thinks reopening a venue in that location is a great idea.

Related: Blue Moose Tap House to close by the end of September

“There’s great space in there,” he said. “You have a massive stage in the back, you have a stage upstairs. That’s definitely what it’s meant to be for. I’m happy that a new music venue is coming in there.”

Saleh said that he thinks having music venues downtown is important because of the variety of artists — and crowds —that they bring.

Nancy Bird, the executive director of the Iowa City Downtown District, said that the Downtown District had talked with Franklin prior to him signing his lease in early January.

“(With) Elray’s Live and Dive, that was a University of Iowa alum who was really excited about Iowa City and loves live music,” she said. “They wanted to be here.”

Bird said that despite low vacancy in the downtown area for businesses to move into, the Iowa City Downtown District works to find the spaces for businesses to take root.

“When we kind of get a lead that there’s a new business that’s looking to be downtown, we reach out and make contact, and then do our best to sit down and really share with them the services we provide,” she said.

For Franklin, Iowa City has remained a special place for him over the years.

“It’s pretty unique,” Franklin said. “I’ve lived in a lot of places, I’ve traveled everywhere, and this is a pretty unique place.”