A Marion location that housed a mainstay bar for decades is back open with a new look and a new name. Brick Alley Pub & Sports Bar opened in Uptown Marion at the end of March.
The space used to be Bill’s Drinking Establishment, which closed in 2015. Longtime Marion resident Les Arnold bought the building in September and knocked out part of a wall between the bar and the adjacent unit, which used to house a quilt shop. He and his sons did the demolition work before hiring contractors to rebuild the interior space. They opened the doors at the end of March.
Arnold was recently laid off from Transamerica, and though the plans for the bar were already underway when that happened, the timing has worked out — he was planning to hire a manager but for now is filling that role himself.
Eventually he hopes to find another corporate job, but for now he doesn’t mind the change from office life.
“Owning a bar has always been a dream of mine,” he said. “I had bartended in the past and loved it. Interacting with people is one of my fortes.”
Brick Alley is not a restaurant — they have a toaster oven for frozen pizzas and serve popcorn during happy hour, but that’s about it. However, customers are welcome to bring in food from other restaurants, and Arnold is looking into the possibility of partnering with food trucks to park outside.
The 5,000 square foot bar is divided into three sections — the first is the traditional bar room. Arnold’s wife Tracy led the interior design, which included uncovering original brick walls.
“We tried to expose many of the natural features of this 100 year old building,” Les Arnold said.
The space also utilizes corrugated tin salvaged from a barn in Mount Vernon, along with touches like metal tubing light fixtures and table legs and a bar top designed by local artist Santiago Sanchez, who airbrushed concrete to look like wood.
The second section, through an arched brick doorway into the former quilt shop, features the signature sports bar area — a screen takes up an entire wall, with tiered stadium-style seating. Arnold said he wanted to create the perfect place to watch a game, or to host events like fantasy draft picks. The stadium seating can be reserved for groups who want to pick the game and volume.
“We want this to be a bar that has something for everyone,” Arnold said. “Just a place where you can come and have an area everyone can enjoy.”
That was why he added the third section. At the back of the bar, this quieter area away from the big screen features floor-to-ceiling windows, letting in plenty of light and a view of the alley behind the bar. While most alleys would provide vistas of uninspiring dumpster scenes, Marion’s ImagineArt in the Alleys project has filled the space with unique artwork. A small stage across the alley features a painting of birds, and brightly-colored columns sit just behind the bar.
Arnold said the project helps give the Uptown neighborhood a more distinct sense of place.
“Marion is really changing,” he said. “We want to make Marion a destination and not just a one-stop place where you go get a drink and then go to downtown Cedar Rapids.”
WHERE: 1038 Seventh Ave., Marion
WHEN: 2 p.m. to midnight Tuesday to Thursday and 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday; hours subject to change
DETAILS: (319) 550-6600, brickalleymarion.com