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Hamburg Inn Reopens After Fire

IOWA CITY, IA (CBS2/FOX28) - An Iowa City landmark, the Hamburg Inn No. 2, has finally re-opened its doors on Monday after three long months of renovations spurred by a spontaneous fire at the restaurant in May.

Regulars and new-comers showed up for coffee and breakfast at 6:30 a.m., as owner Dave Panther said he hoped this was a "new beginning."

"(It's) wonderful. It's like family," said regular diner Annie Larsen.

Mark Abbott was the first regular to show up, walking through the back door like an employee. He eats there every day as soon as the doors open, he said.

"There's no other place to be," Abbott said.

Abbott and others were on waitress Katie McDonnell's mind for the last three months, after she realized she could collect unemployment and didn't have to quit her job, that is. McDonnell and her fellow employees were eligible for unemployment checks and didn't have to apply for other jobs, she said, because the restaurant would eventually be reopened. McDonnell said that made her life a lot simpler this summer, so she focused on other things.

"One, is everybody OK, after I found out we had had the fire? And two, who's going to feed everybody who's in here three times a day? What are they going to do?" McDonnell said, with a laugh.

Janice Hennessey knows a thing or two about regulars -- her mother worked at Hamburg for 20 years on the grill. She fondly remembered spending her childhood at the restaurant.

"We would come in here and those hamburgers smelled so good in that sack, with the French fries and everything," Hennessey said.

Years ago, Hennessey also worked at Hamburg. Monday, she was just back for breakfast.

"I'm glad to see them open again," she said.

"It does feel like home to a lot of people, and it's been a long four months. It really has," said Roma Panther, wife of Dave Panther and Hamburg vice president.

Roma Panther spent the day handing out Hershey's Kisses to customers as a small token of dedication after months of devastation.

"It was just so sad. And then you think it's only goin gto be for three weeks, you know, and $30,000. And it turned into four months and over $200,000," Roma said.

And while the Panthers had to completely gut the basement, redo wiring and pipes, and replace part of the dining room floor and all of the wallpaper, some things at the restaurant hadn't changed -- like the good food and sense of family.

"It's normal now," Abbott said. "We're back to real life."

"It's always good to come back to family," Larsen said. "Feels good."

The Panthers are asking customers to bear with them as things get back up and running again. The ice cream maker was out of commission on Monday, but the Panthers hope to be making their famous pie shakes again on Tuesday.
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