‘The Roost’ holds special place in Keota
KEOTA — The Roost Tavern has been a fixture in Keota for years and years. The bar is a popular stop for people young and old, for folks coming off a long day at work and for athletes celebrating a big win.
The man who owns The Roost is Dan Huber, known to his customers by his nickname, “Bear.” Huber has owned the bar for the past 25 years. Before that, he raised hogs for a living.
“I either had to get with the program or get out, so I got out,” he said.
His decision to become a bar owner came out of the blue. Huber said he did not have any relatives who owned a bar or who even worked in a bar, but he decided it was something he wanted to try.
“It was a spur-of-the-moment decision,” he said.
The bar opened in the 1960s. John Flynn owned The Roost for many years prior to Huber. Flynn passed the business down to his son, Jerry, who operated it for a few years before he sold it to Huber in 1987.
In the past 25 years, Huber has made the bar his own. He has covered the interior of the building with posters, pennants, and signs around the bar. One wall is dedicated to a man named Nathan Woods, who races stock cars. Woods races at local events in Oskaloosa and Columbus Junction.
Woods is from Keswick but now lives in Sigourney. Huber got to know him and ultimately sponsored his stock car. The hood of one of Woods’ cars adorns a wall in the bar, along with photos of him, his trophies and other racing memorabilia.
“I’ve put all kinds of decorations up on the walls,” Huber said. “This is kind of a sports bar. We’ve got three TVs and we can watch two basketball and football games, plus the race.”
Huber said he gets a nice crowd on Sundays because many people in town want to watch NASCAR that day.
Holidays are another good draw for The Roost.
“A lot of college kids come here over Christmas and New Year’s,” Huber said. “Those kids are off from college for three to four weeks.”
The Roost used to have a Christmas dance, back when dances were more common than they are now.
“We had a lot of birthday parties where a DJ would come in,” he said. “We still have dances, but not too often. If someone wants to have a retirement party, we can do it here, too. We can have up to 200 people in here.”
Huber said the bar attracts people from the “tri-county area” of Washington, Keokuk and Iowa counties. He said this is the time of year when card games are commonly played at the bar in the early afternoon.
“We have a lot of card games in the winter such as pepper and pinochle,” he said. “We used to have about six pinochle players who would play from 1-4 p.m. but they’ve all died off on me.”
Huber has a pool table at his bar, which he lets patrons use for free. A row of video games lines the east wall of the bar, which Huber says get a fair amount of use.
A number of young people visit The Roost, too. Huber sponsors the local booster club and D.A.R.E. programs in the school. He said he sells a lot of candy bars, chips and pops to the youth who visit his bar.
“The basketball and football players come in here a lot for pizza after home games,” he said.
Huber gives free pizza to the athletes who come in after their games. He tries to make it to all the home football and basketball games. He said attendance at the bar is not the same for away games since Keota, and Keota-Sigourney in football, have to travel a long way.
The best part of owning the bar is meeting new people, Huber said.
“I get a lot of strangers through here,” he said. “We get a lot of motorcycle riders through here in the summer, from bike clubs in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.”
Saturdays are normally busy at The Roost but in the winter many of Huber’s patrons take to the woods to hunt deer. Mondays can also be very busy as well, especially in the fall when Monday Night Football is on television.
“The only thing that’s frustrating about the job are the drunks,” he said. “They don’t bother me. I let it go in one ear and out the other. We have very few fights here, though. We don’t get too much riffraff like some bars. I probably couldn’t tend a bar in Iowa City.”
Keota resident Andy Conrad knows the ins and outs of The Roost almost as well as Huber does. Conrad has worked at the bar 23 years.
“I started out filling in during game nights,” he said. “I do a lot of the organizing when we have a dance or an event at the bar, so you could call me the manager of sorts.”
One of the acts Conrad invited was comedian Joel Lindley, who has appeared on Jay Leno’s “The Tonight Show” and “The Bob and Tom Show.” A couple from Keota met him while they were on a cruise ship, and they made such an impression on him that they were able to get him to perform at their home town.
“We try to schedule events around the holidays such as Halloween, Thanksgiving and Easter,” Conrad said. “We do a Friday dance during Keota Fun Days. It’s nice that we can have the events where I need to be because I’m in charge of Keota Fun Days.”
Conrad said the bar has hosted dances as long as he’s been there. He said organizing dances is a lot of work since the bar does not have its own disc jockey.
“We truly are a sports bar,” he said. “People come here to watch games. A lot of people also call us to find out where the firetrucks are going.”
Conrad said The Roost holds a special place in the hearts of Keotans. He said the town has come together numerous times to keep the grocery store going, and that just as many people would band together to keep the bar open.
“It’s the place to go,” he said. “I needed surgery on my throat once. Everybody in the hospital asked me where I was from, and I said Keota. They asked me, ‘Did you ever go to The Roost?’ People from all over know that place.”
Conrad said Huber is also a highly regarded man in town.
“He’s been a huge supporter of the school, and not just the athletics. He’s down at all the events. Every kid knows him. He was the ‘No. 1 Eagle Fan’ 20 years ago.”