The Moeller Touch: Sean Moeller puts East Moline on the music map with the area’s newest music and entertainment venue, The Rust Belt


It would be fair to say that everything Quad City business entrepreneur, Sean Moeller touches turns to gold. His humble personality would never admit to that and after talking with him for this article, I’m sure he is rolling his eyes right now when reading that I just compared him to Greek mythology legend, King Midas but the proof is in the pudding as within the last three years, Moeller along with the help of some very innovative business partners have opened some of the Quad Cities most popular venues.

Opening Codfish Hollow in 2016, Triple Crown Whiskey Bar & Racoon Motel in 2017, Moeller wanted to expand his efforts to Illinois. After many months of planning and remodeling an old car manufacturing plant in East Moline, The Rust Belt opened its doors this month and to the surprise of many, Moeller booked American Indie Folk band, Bon Iver to break in the new place. “It’s still just a work in progress,” explained Moeller. “We are still in a teaser-taste mode. I’m happy and proud with the programing with putting in weird and interesting stuff in there right now. The Bon Iver show, obviously got a lot of people in there that haven’t been there yet.”

If you have ever been to either Triple Crown or Codfish Hollow, weird and interesting are kind of Moeller’s thing. He is known for taking places and spaces that most overlook and make them into somewhere people want to go to. And as most have overlooked East Moline when picking areas to expand into entertainment destinations, Moeller felt like it was just right for him. “That space just kind of presented itself,” said Moeller. “I think around here a lot of people write off certain areas. I think there is a lot of the Quad Cities where there is no reason why they should be written off. That building probably would have been torn down and now it’s not and its really up us to program it correctly and for people around here to decide to go to East Moline.”

Going from one side of the river is easier said than done for Quad Citizens and with the recent flooding and bridge work puts an even bigger roadblock for those to travel, no pun intended. For many living here, it seems like you must pick sides or be loyal to your side of the Mississippi and this is something that Moeller wants to see end and hopes The Rust Belt can be the place that helps break down that border-barrier. “A lot of people have this weird hitch in the way they think of things, especially crossing the bridge,” explained Moeller. “I want to think that the Rust Belt is really going to crack away at the stigma of Illinois/Iowa side of the river and you’re going to have to go over there because the stuff is going to be too good to avoid.”

Moeller’s passion and love for the Quad Cities comes out with every sentence he speaks when talking about the area and he mentioned that people’s first reaction to walking into the Rust Belt has been great, but he hopes to shift their answer to something even better over the next few months. “Seeing people come around the corner and seeing it for the first time and hearing them say they feel like they are not in the Quad Cities, I get that response,” said Moeller. “And it’s a cool response, but the better response would be, ‘this feels exactly like we are in the Quad Cities’. That’s how you want to shift it from disbelief to expectation. That’s where it has to head.”

With a few smaller shows coming up, the next big one for the Rust Belt is on Friday, May 17th as they host Fred Armisen: Comedy for Musicians but Everyone is Welcome. Moeller explained how the response has been great for the SNL alum and current drummer for the 8G Band on Late Night with Seth Meyers on NBC. “Nobody else was going to book that show in the Quad Cities,” said Moeller. “We just thought Fred would be really into it and we were originally looking at it for Codfish Hollow, but it wasn’t available that night, so I suggested The Rust Belt.”

The accessibility and availability of Moeller’s venues to work with each other to create one big music machine seems like it was always part of his master plan to have multiple places for him to book the best and most entertaining events for the area. “There is no way the Rust Belt isn’t going to help the Racoon Motel,” said Moeller. “They are going to play off each other in very interesting ways. It’s just an education process and its reconditioning people to understand what’s really out there.” And as these acts continue to sign on to play in the QC, Moeller not only want to broaden the music scene in the area, he wants to make the Quad Cities a must-stop for all acts coming through the Midwest. “That’s what’s interesting about the Rust Belt is all the sudden East Moline, IL is going to be on a lot of tour routings,” explained Moeller. “Just like the Racoon Motel and the barn (Codfish Hollow), now Davenport and Maquoketa is on a lot of tour routings. You can really reestablish a city where people start to say ‘Wow, they are really doing stuff.’”

With a brewery, restaurant, common area and eventually a coffee house all slated to be open soon under the Rust Belt roof, Moeller still has some tricks and surprises up his sleeve for the rest of the year. And if his track record is any indication of what is yet to come for his new brain-child, seeing The Rust Belt on the national news as host to monumental shows seems more of a reality than it ever has before. “We still have a decent amount of year left and I want there to be two or three shockers,” said Moeller. “I believe in it so much, there is really no way of stopping it. Its either success or success. Some days you get frustrated and there is a challenge and some days you have a Bon Iver show and you see it working and people having one of the best nights they’ve ever had. I think that’s what we created there was a night that nobody is ever going to forget. Those nights are rare, but they can happen often.”

For more information and a schedule of upcoming events visit,

Photo credit: Nicholas Cunningham

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