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Belly Up

Feb 2, 2012
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Bringing downtown to Dogtown, University Library reinvented

Bartender Jen Calder serves up a Summit Extra Pale Ale to a patron on a busy afternoon at the University Library, which re-opened last week under Full Court Press ownership, with more on the menu in both food and drinks.

By Amber Williams

As a Des Moines native — or even as a senior at Drake University — it’s fun to think about that Drake freshman, new in town from Nebraska or Minnesota, for example, wandering off campus and into the “University Library” looking for a good book. To his or her delightful surprise, it is actually a library of booze… Come back when you’re 21.

It’s brilliant, really. Drake students can tell their parents they spent all day in the University Library, and it’s not a lie. But for almost 20 years, the books in the window were merely for show, and it’s doubtful that any one of them has ever been cracked open — a fact that became apparent when it was time for the new Full Court Press owners to renovate, according to Jeff Bruning, who said they had to throw away 75 percent of the books.

“They were pretty old, wet and rotted. We threw out about 200 books,” he said. “We took about 80 yards of things out of here. There was 20 years of accumulated stuff, and we pretty much gutted the place — not down to the rafters, just cosmetically. We painted some things and threw out some things and spruced it up with new furniture and carpet and cleaned up the bathrooms.”

So they’re calling it “Library 2.0,” he said, because they’re hoping to give new life to the old haunt, bringing a little downtown to Dogtown.

“We hope to see Court Avenue regulars as well as new neighborhood faces,” he said. “It’s sort of a new version of Drake area bars.”

Two Full Court Press owners, including Bruning, are Drake neighborhood residents and have bellied up at the Library in the past. They like the bar’s standing reputation as it’s always been. But Bruning said they’d like to make it “more of a neighborhood bar than it was in past.”

“Our beer is going to be a bit more for the beer connoisseur, not just the college kids on a budget,” he said. “We don’t have pitchers, and we’re offering a few different beers. We’re not a campus bar like Peggy’s, and we’re still a Drake bar, but we want to serve the Drake neighborhood instead of just Drake.”

The new version of the Library officially opened last week and has a decent liquor section but with most of its focus on beers. The selection of almost 80 beers in cans and bottles, as well as more than 20 on tap, truly makes the bar a “library” of beers. The new Library also has new hours and an enhanced food menu, including five nacho choices, burgers, house soups and slow-cooked meats for sandwiches, as well as breakfast served on the weekends.

“We’re excited about our first establishment outside of downtown Des Moines, and I’m confident the neighbors, alumni and students will enjoy what we have done to reinvent the Library,” Bruning said. CV


University Library Café

3506 University Ave.


Hours: 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Mon-Fri.; 8a.m.-2 a.m., Sat.; 8a.m. to 12 a.m., Sun.

Happy Hour: Everyday 2-6 p.m.

Capacity: 45

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