A comedy venue that already made a splash in two major metropolitan areas soon will bring a new nightlife option to Dubuque’s Millwork District.
Meanwhile, an eatery helmed by a recent winner of a national cooking show will open this week in the same building.
The Comedy Bar will host its first public show on Friday, Nov. 8. The 110-seat venue is located in the basement of the Novelty Iron Works Building, 333 E. 10th St.
Co-owners Sahar Chavoshi and Kyle Lane already operate comedy clubs in Chicago and Nashville, Tenn. They hope to put their industry experience to good use while operating their third venue.
“We want to bring an elevated entertainment experience to Dubuque,” Chavoshi said.
Southern Ego will open Friday near the main lobby of the Novelty Iron Works building. The business is co-owned by Gerron Hurt, who earned nationwide attention last year when he won the ninth season of “MasterChef,” a reality cooking show on Fox.
Hurt co-owns the business with his wife, Brandi. The Hurts met Chavoshi and Lane in Nashville and agreed to visit Dubuque to see what the city had to offer.
“I fell in love with the people and the city itself right away,” Gerron Hurt said.
The Comedy Bar features a lounge and bar area that connects to a stand-up comedy venue with a stage. It will employ about 10 people.
Chavoshi said the venue will offer a free open mic night on Thursdays and welcome “national headliners” on Fridays and Saturdays. Admission is free for open mic, and tickets start at $16 for professional shows.
Comedian Ryan Dalton will headline the first weekend of shows. He has performed on Comedy Central, appeared in the TBS sitcom “Sullivan & Son” and won the grand prize at the World Series of Comedy competition in Las Vegas in 2011.
Chavoshi emphasized that The Comedy Bar will feature established, professional comics, many of whom have Netflix specials or television credits to their names.
“Every time we have entered a new market, the audience tends to be really pleasantly surprised at the quality of the shows,” she said. “We really take pride in hand-picking every single comedian.”
Chavoshi and Lane have worked in the comedy industry for more than a decade.
They started by producing and promoting comedy shows and, in 2011, opened the first Comedy Bar location in Chicago.
That venue remains open and now hosts shows seven days per week. The Nashville site recently opened.
Chavoshi and Lane first happened upon Dubuque about two years ago, when a short film of theirs was nominated for an award at Julien Dubuque International Film Festival.
Their interest grew after seeing the Novelty Iron Works property.
Chavoshi said crews have worked on the space for about a year. They have aimed to maintain the building’s “raw aesthetic” while adding flourishes.
Comedy Bar officials initially projected that the facility could open in mid-March. However, delays associated with the opening of their Nashville venue pushed that timetable back significantly.
Despite the delays, Chavoshi believes the timing of The Comedy Bar’s opening could work to the venue’s advantage.
“November always kicks off our busy season in Chicago, and I think Dubuque will follow suit,” she said. “It is nice to open up when everyone is starting to get cold and depressed and needs a reason to laugh.”
The opening of Comedy Bar will coincide with the arrival of the new eatery.
The facade of Southern Ego is meant to look like a food truck and offers patrons a similar grab-and-go experience. True to its name, it specializes in Southern fare.
“I wanted to take those Southern ingredients and put those into a handheld sandwich that will feed your soul,” said Hurt.
The eatery already has 10 employees and will look to hire more. Southern Ego will be open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 4 p.m. until midnight Friday and noon until midnight on Saturday.
A related business, Ego Elevations, will offer catering for weddings and other events in the building.
The Hurts’ operation will take the place of City Eats, a mini-restaurant that opened this summer but closed shortly thereafter.