No sign identified the Triple Crown Whiskey Bar & Raccoon Motel until relatively recently – a few tattered letters leftover from when it was a musicians union hang over the door – and, in fact, the place still looked like an abandoned building for several weeks after its opening night.
Its rugged façade, however, doesn’t scare anyone. It’s been packed every night, with adoring patrons’ dollars going toward updates and improvements to the former home of Local 67 AFM. For starters, a sign. More recently, picnic tables and pavement where a gravel lot used to be.
They could have used the space for parking but chose not to because they know what’s really important in life.
This method of opening and operation, which sounds like it might give a marketing specialist an aneurysm, works in an area where people are eager to support new ventures – especially those that skirt well-established boundaries. Located on 304 E. Third St. at the edge of Davenport’s entertainment district, the Raccoon Motel isn’t in competition with its historic neighbor, the Hotel Blackhawk.
The bar’s aesthetic is actually less like a motel and more like a basement. The décor all matches the image of how a weathered whiskey dad – a special breed of middle-aged man that is little-seen but well established in legend – would keep his rumpus room. Why yes, there are mid-century electric bar signs. And everyone loves the stuffed fox with an unlit cigarette dangling from his mouth. All that’s missing is some kind of archaic table game that everyone claims to love but no one ever plays. Maybe that’ll be a feature when they open the adjacent building later this year.
The 1960s whiskey den style contributes to what makes the room really special: its intimacy. It’s modest size and tiny stage make it ideal for acts like Ren Edstrand and Liv Carrow, where storytelling and interaction with the audience are key components to a good performance.
This marks my second Liv Carrow reference in a Travel Iowa post. I swear she’s not my girlfriend – just a great local singer/songwriter.
It’s also a perfect spot for Triple Crown Comedy – and not just because the names match. (Maybe I should be a comedian.) Most Thursdays at 9 p.m., this is a free stand-up showcase that features a handful of acts, each of which spends 10-15 minutes making you laugh harder than the last cock-and-bull fest you had with your friends.
As the bar grows, so will the variety of entertainment – rumor says someone is putting together a pitch for an all-female improvisational vaudeville act/poetry slam – and its ties with the community. Local vinyl-worshipping DJ collective and Analog Arcade staple Just Let Go will step in to guest host this month’s free Soul Night.
If you’re not a whiskey fan, there are other drinks on the menu. This is, however, an outstanding opportunity to get adventurous. While standards like Maker’s and Bushmills are always on hand, the Raccoon Motel offers specialties you won’t find at your corner bar. On the advice of co-owner Devon Wiese, I tasted Lagavullin, a single malt distilled on the Island of Islay in Scotland. As soon as it was in my mouth, I knew I would never drink Glenlivet again – which they also carry.
If the owners’ previous business ventures are any indication, the Triple Crown Whiskey Bar & Raccoon Motel will be a Quad Cities institution before long. Stop in to watch it grow and be a part of the legacy.
Featured image courtesy of the Raccoon Motel's Facebook page