Ground Floor: What happens in Vegas comes to Iowa City

“We were going for the big city feel without having to leave Iowa City”

George Ford
Published: February 11 2014 | 6:30 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:27 am in

The idea for Iowa City’s Eden Lounge originated on a trip three long-time friends took to Las Vegas.

Last April, John and Ashley Burchert and David Etre traveled to Las Vegas to attend the wedding of some mutual friends. While there, they visited the Foundation Room at the top of the Mandalay Bay resort.

“It was a small, intimate place – very classy with big, comfortable couches and not some huge nightclub where you can’t hear yourself think,” Ashley Burchert recalled. “John said, 'There’s nothing like this in Iowa City,’ and David said, ‘I was just thinking the same thing.’”

The two men previously had talked about going into business together, so Burchert suggested that they recreate their Las Vegas experience back home.

Etre, who owns several downtown Iowa City restaurants, knew of an available space behind Takanami, a restaurant he owns with his brother. The out-of-the way spot had been home to the Piano Lounge, which closed in 2011, and most recently had been used as overflow dining  for Takanami.

With her husband and Etre busy with their other business endeavors, Burchert assumed oversight of the 2,000-square-foot space’s transformation into a Vegas-style lounge. The changes include an ambient LED lighting system like the one illuminating Las Vegas’ CityCenter, sleek black and white leather seating, a custom sound system and a black carpet entrance.

“We were going for the big city feel without having to leave Iowa City,” Burchert said.

After a soft opening in October, Eden Lounge celebrated its grand opening in November.

The lounge is open Thursday through Sunday with live piano on Friday nights and a DJ on other nights. It offers an extensive wine and drink menu as well as small plates and desserts.

For a members-only experience, patrons may reserve V.I.P. seating and bottle service.

Burchert said Eden Lounge’s clientele spans a broad demographic, from college and graduate students enjoying a night out with friends to a more mature crowd for the dancing and sophisticated ambience.

“It’s really important that everyone has a unique experience,” Birchert said. “We want everyone to feel like they are a V.I.P."

Upcoming events at Eden Lounge include a special Valentine’s Day five-course dinner and wine pairing and a reservations-only Oscars viewing party with Oscar-themed food, red carpet and paparazzi.

Burchert and her partners use heavy social media marketing to draw customers to their tucked-away establishment.

“I love to hear people say it doesn’t feel like being in Iowa City,” Burchert said. “It’s nice to hear we accomplished what we were going for.”

At A glance

  • Owners: David Etre and John and Ashley Burchert
  • Business: Eden Lounge
  • Address: 217 Iowa Ave., Iowa City
  • Phone: (319) 359-1376
  • Facebook:

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