Hamburg Inn No. 2 East Side closes its doors — for now

Offering a brief reprieve from the monotony of life in the form of breakfast food, local foodies were taken aback at Hamburg Inn No. 2 East Side’s sudden closure Sunday.


Jeff Sigmund

Hamburg Inn No. 2 East Side, Rochester Avenue location is seen on Feb. 17, 2020. The location suddenly closed on Sunday.

Charles Peckman, Senior Reporter

Local foodies were taken aback by the sudden closure of Hamburg Inn No. 2’s Rochester Avenue location on Sunday.

A plain piece of paper on the restaurant’s glass door read: “We have closed, thank you for your patronage.” Local fans of the chain quickly took to social media, lamenting the loss of the food and its associated memories.

The Rochester Avenue location was in part established because of its proximity to a number of local high schools. Despite the conjecture flooding Iowa City’s virtual airwaves, Hamburg Inn No. 2 General Manager Seth Dudley said foodies should not fret — the location is only closed for now.

“We decided to close because we are getting close to opening our Coralville location,” Dudley said. “We’re consolidating our resources; once that location opens its doors, we’ll explore the possibility of opening a larger east side location.”

This consolidation of resources, Dudley said, will give the Hamburg Inn team the opportunity to focus on opening up shop in Coralville — an opening, he added, that will give other communities the chance to experience Hamburg Inn.

“The Coralville location will be great for communities [like North Liberty] who may not want to deal with the hassle of going to eat downtown [in Iowa City],” Dudley said. “I mean, we have to be sure not to cannibalize our own business, but we have put a lot of thought into where our locations will be.”

Hamburg Inn owner Michael Lee, who currently resides in China, purchased the business from former owner David Panther in 2016. Lee, who graduated from the University of Iowa in the 1960s, is the CEO of Academic Studies Abroad, an organization based in Shanghai that oversees educational exchanges between American and Chinese students.

Although Lee’s ties to China — in the midst of an outbreak of the coronavirus and tense U.S.-China trade relations — were a factor in the east side location closing, Dudley said, those concerns were not at the forefront of the decision to close the space.

“Yes, [Lee] is in China and the coronavirus is a very real threat, and it has made business relations with China difficult,” he said. “But that was not the primary concern when we decided to close the Rochester location.”

Returning back to the virtues of opening a Coralville location, Dudley said it is important to keep “market factors” in mind when exploring business expansion. Dudley added that moving forward, the most important factor is the memories attached to the food Hamburg Inn serves on a daily basis.

“There is a reason that when people come back to Hamburg after going to school here or moving away it looks pretty much the same,” he said. “There is a sense of familiarity and home when people walk through the door.”