The Ideal was built in 1914 as one of 6 theaters in the Bohemian District, and was the only one that showed films and newsreels in the native Czech language of local immigrant residents. WWI was going on at the time, so The Ideal served as a vital resource for Czech immigrants seeking news of their homeland, and of the world in general. In between short newsreels and silent films, The Ideal hosted a broad array of performance acts, including jugglers and singers. However, The Ideal was ultimately out-competed by the larger, more mainstream English-speaking theaters, and closed its doors just a few years later, in 1920.
Over the next century the building served a variety of purposes, but was mostly used as a nondescript warehouse and much of it went to seed. In 2017, its structural integrity was restored by the Jelinek family, including its original, magnificent 10,000 sq ft stamped tin ceiling. In 2022, the Thorp family undertook an interior build-out of the space, including a 32-foot long bar styled after turn-of-the-century saloons, and finally returned The Ideal to its original purpose as a theater.
Though it may have once been out-competed, The Ideal is, in the end, the only theater in the Bohemian District to survive. As of this writing, The Ideal Theater & Bar reigns as the district’s ONLY full-time live music and entertainment venue, hosting a huge variety of musical genres and performance acts. Those these acts no longer perform in Czech, a massive mural honoring our immigrant forefathers decorates the entire West side of the building. Inside, we prioritize original bands, independent and emerging artists, and other performance acts that fall outside the mainstream. When we aren’t hosting acts, we function as a speakeasy bar, serving up craft cocktails, beer, wine, and fine spirits in the beautiful, dimly lit space of a former era that remains uninterrupted by TV’s, gambling machines or jukeboxes.
The Ideal is currently owned by the Thorp family and operated by Kenyon Thorp. It is with great honor and pride that we re-capture and extend our Bohemian legacy, and position The Ideal, a small theater once left to oblivion, as the premier live music and entertainment venue of eastern Iowa.