A sign for the Highlander Hotel is seen in February 2024, in Iowa City, Iowa. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

UPDATE Feb. 19, 2024: Brunch pricing at end.

By Cindy Hadish/Homegrown Iowan

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Two women entrepreneurs are forging a powerful partnership as The Supper Club opens next month at the Highlander Hotel.

Angela Harrington, who transformed the distressed Highlander Hotel after buying it in 2019, and Danise Petsel, owner of the Iowa River Power Restaurant, which closed last year after the building owner did not renew the lease for the iconic restaurant, have joined forces in The Supper Club.

More: See photos of the last day at Iowa River Power Restaurant.

“I was blown away listening to her talk about what will be on the catering menu,” said Harrington, who brought the Highlander Hotel from last in the traveler-ranked 37 hotels in Johnson County to first for nearly four years running. “She really knows her stuff.”

Petsel had hinted that something new might be on the horizon as her Coralville restaurant, known by locals as IRP, closed its doors Nov. 26, 2023, after the building owner notified her that the lease for the popular dining spot would expire in January.

“Having both overnight hotel guests and locals come for dinner is really exciting,” Petsel said of the new venture with the Highlander Hotel. “Even thinking about room service and poolside dining is fun.”

The collaboration is set to launch Sunday, March 24, 2024, with brunch at the Highlander Hotel, 2525 Highlander Place, Iowa City.

Angela Harrington and Danise Petsel are shown inside the Highlander Hotel in Iowa City. (photo/Highlander Hotel)

Petsel played host to more than 1.5 million dining and event guests at IRP over 22 years, while Harrington’s renovation of the Highlander has turned it into a hip weekend destination and one-of-a-kind multi-generational gathering place and getaway.

The Supper Club was built in 1967 as the Highlander Inn, with the original sunken bar now restored. According to its website, the restaurant/bar quickly became an Iowa icon and one of the most popular entertainment venues in Iowa for dining and dancing.

Upon hearing of the closing of Petsel’s Iowa River Power Restaurant, Harrington reached out to her.

“I called her up and said, ‘Wondering if you and your team might need a home,'” Harrington said. “You are better than me at food, and my hotel needs a real supper club menu and a full-service, over-the-top
catering operation to accommodate our growing corporate retreat and social event business.”

The two immediately hit it off.

Danise Petsel speaks to one of the many customers who dined Nov. 26, 2023, on the closing day of Iowa River Power Restaurant in Coralville, Iowa. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

“It sounded like a great opportunity to have the space we’ve always wanted on the catering front and Angela wanted to take the Highlander’s food and beverage offering for guests and locals alike to a new
level,” Petsel said. “When I pictured my brunch at the Highlander on a Sunday morning and our prime rib and seafood in that historic supper club with the sunken bar, it just felt like a perfect fit.”

An IRP brunch would typically see 800 people on an average Sunday morning. The fresh-from-scratch desserts made famous at IRP by Petsel, Chef Todd’s prime rib, steaks and seafood along with incredible presentation will wow even the most fickle event, meeting and wedding planners, Harrington said.

The famous 1967 original Supper Club was brought back to life during Harringon’s restoration, but has been missing a true Supper Club menu until now, she added, citing a partnership that promises a fusion of the Highlander’s fun vibe and IRP’s prowess as an affordably priced steak and seafood house.

Danise Petsel and Angela Harrington are collaborating on The Supper Club at the Highlander Hotel in Iowa City. (photo/Highlander Hotel)

Both Harrington and Petsel share a passion for surprising, delighting and creating memories for their guests, Harrington said, and both women are accomplished, veteran entrepreneurs having made impressive, positive impacts on their community.

Together, the dynamic duo promises to bring an extraordinary experience to visitors and locals alike.

For now, overnight guests at the Highlander will still enjoy complimentary breakfast Monday through Friday. Sunday brunch for locals and hotel guests alike will be $32.95 for adults, $14.95 for ages 5 to 10 and complimentary for kids 0-4. Saturday brunches will be scheduled at a later date. Evening diners can anticipate a full supper club menu featuring steaks and seafood.

Reservations for the March 24 brunch and beyond are already being accepted by emailing
hello@highlanderhotel.us or by calling the hotel at 319-354-2000. Open Table will be a booking option soon.

Send event and group inquiries to: sales@highlanderhotel.us.

Cars fill the parking lot of the Iowa River Power Restaurant on its last day, Nov. 26, 2023, in Coralville, Iowa. While the restaurant will no longer be at the site, the owner has embarked on a new venture with the Highlander Hotel in Iowa City. (photo/Cindy Hadish)