New Raccoon Motel Aims to Open In Downtown Davenport On St. Patrick’s Day 2021
The new Raccoon Motel bar and live-music venue plans to open St. Patrick’s Day 2021 at the old Abernathy’s in downtown Davenport, with live music starting in early summer, one of its partners said Wednesday.
John McDermott, a Quad-Cities commercial lender who’s friends with original Raccoon Motel music booker Sean Moeller, is partnering with
Moeller and Eric Swanson to resurrect the Raccoon – which operated from March 2017-August 2019 at 304 E. 3rd St. (now Devon’s Complaint Dept.), averaging about 150 live shows a year.
The new Raccoon already has been selling some new hoodies, stocking hats and T-shirts, and will have a pickup later today (12/23) from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at The Drawing Room QC, 318 E. 2nd Street, Davenport — within spitting distance of the future spot for the new Motel.
McDermott said they will be renovating the gutted 4,000-square-foot-space formerly occupied by Abernathy’s apparel and accessories store, 315 E. 2nd St., which was flooded out in spring 2019, reopening that August at 432 W. 3rd St.
“I’m an entrepreneur, business guy by nature. You find ways to invest in the down times, the tough times,” McDermott (who works at Fortress Bank) said. “It will put us in place to succeed, not only for us, but bands coming back. A lot of venues are closing and there’s going to be a void in the market. As music lovers, we don’t want to be that void. We’re putting our money where our mouth is.”
McDermott was a fan of the old Raccoon (which was not an actual motel, but had the full name Triple Crown Whiskey Bar and Raccoon Motel) and wanted to stay in downtown Davenport. They also looked at locations in downtown Bettendorf, with the opening of the new I-74 bridge.
“It’s a double win for downtown,” he said of Davenport, which was battered by the 2019 record-breaking flood, and is working on its slow rebuild. “Davenport feels like home for the Raccoon Motel — the walkable traffic. A couple of us went to Me & Billy for dinner last night; it just kind of fits the ecosystem. It benefits other businesses.”
McDermott said they launched the Raccoon merchandise not just for ideal Christmas gifts, but to generate some seed money for the new venture. He could not estimate what the building renovations would be, but they are leasing the space, including three apartments on the second floor that will be used as Airbnb rents for touring artists. (That also fits the “Motel” theme.)
“We’re leaning on our partners with liquor and beer distributors, a handful of other bar owners downtown who have been great assets and resources,” McDermott said. “It really has been an uplifting effort by those around us in the community.”
The venture makes more economic sense than the original bar and Raccoon since the new bar and Airbnb will bring in revenue year-round, even when there aren’t live shows happening, he said. The three partners also plan to explore other markets, including Dubuque, to bring the same business model.
“The goal is to have multiple locations, a feeder system, for bands to come up, make it economical to go into mid-size markets like the Quad-Cities – so bands can travel economically, you have the dual system with Airbnb, bar and music,” McDermott said. “That makes life easier on the bands, makes them want to keep them coming back.
“We’ve got a loyal fan base, people love live music — between here and Codfish Hollow,” he said, noting Moeller has had success booking for the Codfish live music venue outside Maquoketa. “I don’t want to use the ‘Field of Dreams’ model, but if you build it, they will come.”
In other cities, the venue would not be called Raccoon Motel, but a “something” Motel, geared to their local identity, McDermott said.
In terms of timetable, they’re hoping to open for the big bar day of St. Patrick’s Day in March, depending on extent of Covid vaccinations and public-health restrictions at the time.
“We’re hoping for live music the beginning of summer,” he said. “We know what St. Patrick’s can be in downtown Davenport. It’s a good opportunity to be baptism by fire, overall open the bar first, and Airbnb in a comparable timeframe, and the music portion have just naturally flow. Audiences and bands have to be comfortable to come out – we don’t want to force that on anybody.”
“Time will tell; it will be a combination of how fast our bands are willing to come back out,” McDermott said. “The intent is the space we’re building will be readily available to have music as often as possible, especially if we create that pipeline. We’ve spoken with folks at RME, we love what they do there.”
Raccoon Motel also may host regular open mic nights, to showcase local musicians, he said. The new space should be twice as large as the former Raccoon was. Devon’s Complaint Dept. opened as a retro-style “dive” bar at 304 E. 3rd St. in October 2019.
Positive impact on downtown and Q-C economy
Dave Herrell, president/CEO of Visit Quad Cities, and Kyle Carter, executive director of Downtown Davenport Partnership, are thrilled with the resurgence of the ravaged east end of downtown – battered in the past two years by both the flood and the pandemic.
“The more live music and authentic content the Quad-Cities, it only adds value to how we build our story and continue to improve a sense of place,” Herrell said.
In spring 2019, the globally recognized Daytrotter left the Quad-Cities after a busy, blazing 13 years.
Wolfgang’s Vault, majority owner of the recording studio and online music catalog, closed the studio at 324 Brady St. on March 30, 2019, and consolidated operations at a studio in Atlanta, Ga.
“Our lease was up, and the economics of the space wasn’t working for us,” Matt Lundberg, senior vice president for Wolfgang’s Vault, said last year. Paste magazine and Daytrotter had previously merged, and Paste has recording studios in New York City and Atlanta.
Since August 2018, the websites Daytrotter and Paste Music have lived under the same online roof, as PasteMagazine.com/Daytrotter. It was announced in 2018 that Paste would be the new home for Daytrotter’s collection of more than 7,000 sessions from bands from around the world, along with its ongoing video live-streaming.
Since 2006, when it was co-founded by Sean Moeller, upcoming indie bands and established acts recorded unedited tracks at the Daytrotter studio, first in downtown Rock Island, and since 2016 in downtown Davenport, on the ground floor of the historic Renwick building.
After it moved, Daytrotter hosted live concerts in the performance space, but while it was an “exciting opportunity” in 2016, Lundberg said it
never proved financially viable, and the live shows ceased by late May 2018.
Moeller relinquished the reins of Daytrotter in August 2016, after running the internationally-recognized recording studio, online music catalog, concert promotions and live performance space for 10 years. He continued to run Moeller Nights concerts in the area and was the leading developer and booker for The Rust Belt, East Moline, which opened in February 2019, and Davenport’s Raccoon Motel.
With a capacity of 4,000 people, the 30,000-square-foot Rust Belt is the second largest music venue in the Q-C — bigger than the Adler Theatre in downtown Davenport and smaller only than the 12,000-capacity TaxSlayer Center in Moline.
“Sean’s great talent lies in finding good new music and bringing it here,” Benjamin Fawks, owner/manager of Rock Island’s Rozz-Tox, which hosted a series of Moeller Monday concerts, said in 2016. “I hope he will continue to do that for the Quad-Cities.
“He brought some really fantastic acts in, and I hope we will continue working together in other contexts,” Fawks said. “Sean is a key player in putting the Quad-Cities on the map.”
Moeller (who wasn’t available to speak Wednesday) co-founded Daytrotter and Daytrotter.com in 2006 above Huckleberry’s Pizza in downtown Rock Island. “Over the past decade, Daytrotter has been a Midwest landmark to the independent music scene,” Billboard said, listing Wilco, Mumford & Sons, Avett Brothers, Bon Iver, Alabama Shakes, Glen Campbell and Ed Sheeran among the artists who recorded there.
Kyle Carter said of the new Raccoon: “I’m both personally and professionally thrilled to see it happen. The space itself is going to be even
better than the last layout. The importance of it to the music scene is hard to overstate.
“Between RME, the Raccoon Motel, all the outdoor public spaces we’re able to do shows, we’ll shoot out of the cannon in 2021, start to rebuild our music scene,” he said. “When you step back and look back at the big picture, the Capitol Theater will be coming back in the next year, the Adler picking up big touring acts – we’ll have small, medium, large and extra-large venues.”
“I think it’s probably an even healthier mix than we had before,” Carter said.
Because of Covid, the 2020 Alternating Currents festival of music, art, and film downtown was canceled, but it will definitely be back next summer.
“The Raccoon Motel will be a critical part of that,” Carter said. “Just with what Sean has established over the years, and what John and Eric have, having that team out there, bringing that energy, is just really important…It’s something to look forward to.”
The next revitalization of East Second St.
He’s also especially looking forward to the latest resurgence of East 2nd Street, between the Arsenal Bridge and Brady Street, including this summer’s opening of The Drawing Room QC at 318 E. 2nd St. It’s an elegant cigar lounge and shop, providing a well-curated selection of classic and boutique blends.
Ragged Records and Trash Can Annie’s are expected to reopen by late spring 2021 at 311 E. 2nd St., just a block away from their old location
(Ragged remains open in Rock Island, 311 ½ 21st St.). And Richard Schwab – owner of Great Revivalist Brew Lab in Geneseo — plans to revive the former Great River Brewery, 332 E. 2nd St., Davenport, as Great Revivalist Brewery in early 2021.
Carter also is pumped with the development of Urbane210, at 210 E. 2nd St., a five-story mixed-use building including a unique blend of 56 market-rate apartments and over 6,000 square feet commercial space geared for micro-shops and entrepreneurial small-businesses. The $8-million project (to be completed in the first half of next year) is one of the first in Davenport to use downtown’s new Federal Opportunity Zone status.
“We are thrilled to celebrate the groundbreaking of a yet another major new-construction project downtown, despite the challenges of 2020,” Carter said at its Aug. 30 groundbreaking. “Urbane210 will not only provide unique new apartment options, but it will also create micro-retail space to help boost small entrepreneurs and further establish our E. 2nd Street retail corridor.”
The apartment mix is a range of studios, 1 bedroom, and 2-bedroom units. A unique factor of the development is its efficient single-dweller
(an apartment for one person) unit designs, providing attainable housing for current and future workforce downtown.
The project will also provide micro-retail spaces of 600 to 1,000 square feet designed for small businesses and entrepreneurs, along with a larger commercial space slated for a restaurant or similar anchor tenant. The development site is in the heart of downtown overlooking the Mississippi River and within walking distance to a wide variety of cultural, recreational, and entertainment options.
“That whole corridor will have a healthy mix of retail, bar and restaurant, what you want,” Carter said Wednesday. “That mix experience is what every downtown wants; it’s great to have that in one place.”
The other piece of the street revitalization is the former Bucktown Center for the Arts, at 225 E. 2nd St., where the owners continue to renovate the four-story building for more apartments, with ground-floor commercial space.
“There will be restaurant opportunities for that, and it’s in the middle of all that,” Carter said of that site. “You step back and look at that, Raccoon Motel is really a critical player for the entertainment part, having that destination draw, for all the other businesses.”
“The strength of their business model is very different from the prior design,” he said. “They’ll have a place for bands to say, have revenue on non-show nights, the bar will be separate from the listening area. It’s more sustainable.”
“To have the bar open, the revenue from places upstairs, it’s really a strong model. It’s attractive for bands too,” Carter said. “When touring,
one of the hardest things is to find a place to stay. This makes it really attractive for bands. From a business perspective, people will like it.”
“Building that corridor of East 2nd Street is really special; I’m excited to see it happen,” he said. After this rough year, “it feels good to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
The new Raccoon also will promote national streaming shows, McDermott said, including its first Jan. 9 at 7:30 p.m., with iconic folk singer and activist Joan Baez. In celebration of the artist’s 80th birthday, a reception will be streamed January 9, including an interview with Baez, a virtual tour of the show and other festivities.
“For that we are a promotional vehicle; we get a percentage of tickets sold through the link we promote,” McDermott said. “Maybe down the road, we’re not only promoting, but utilizing our venue, using streams. There are things in the music industry, created out of Covid, that were not there before. We’re embracing and exploring how we can fit into the new world.”
Codfish Hollow is also in the same boat as other music venues nationwide, he noted.
“They’re waiting for a safe and healthy way to bring people back together in a group setting — ourselves and Codfish, people standing up, singing along shoulder to shoulder,” McDermott said. “We want to make sure it’s the right thing. With a bar, we can space tables, have protections. The HVAC system to turn over the air, kill bacteria and Covid, those things are a learning experience. We’ll gather knowledge to make the right decision.”
In the last day and a half, since the Raccoon announced their plans, “the response has been fantastic,” he said. “We thank everyone for the support. We’re as excited as supporters are to see this come back to life. It’s been a fun two days. We think it’ll be even more fun in 2021.”
For more information, visit www.theraccoonmotel.com.