By Brad Lopez
By Tom Murphy
By Noah Hubbell
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A lot has changed in downtown Denver over the past two decades or so, but there's been at least one constant: Soapy Smith's Eagle Bar, at 1317 14th Street. For 23 years, Dick Bacon and his wife, Beth, have run the watering hole, which has earned a deserved reputation as a wild party joint. "I've had couples introduce me to children who were supposedly conceived in the restaurant," Dick says. But the Bacons' run came to an end on June 23, when Dick and Beth officially closed the doors and put into motion a plan to sell the club and everything inside it, down to the last shot glass.
The weekend before the closing, a considerable sum of money was stolen from the bar--the third theft of this type in a distressingly brief period. But while Dick confirms that the situation, which he calls "an inside job," accelerated his decision to put the bar on the block, he insists that it was only a minor factor in his decision to sell. "I'm no spring chicken anymore, and when you get to my age, you should curtail certain activities," he says. "It's a young man's game, and that's the kind of person who should be running a place like this--not someone old and happily married like me."
Dick denies that the bar has suffered a decline in business of late, as has been rumored. "This isn't a distress sale," he says. But he admits that his increased involvement in real-estate development in the Fort Collins-Windsor area has prevented him from keeping as close an eye on Soapy Smith's as he should have. "Whenever we put a concentrated effort into any program, whether it was live music or whatever, it has always been successful. Unfortunately, I haven't always been around to help--but if someone's committed to the property, there's a lot of opportunity here."
Rather than simply slapping a "for sale" sign on the front window, the Bacons have taken a more ambitious tack. Woltz and Associates, a firm in Roanoke, Virginia, is already hyping the bar over the Internet at www.woltz.com, and advertisements for it will soon appear in the Wall Street Journal and various national trade journals. A tour for real-estate agents will also be offered on July 9, followed by a July 28 session at which time the land, the building and its contents will be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Dick estimates the appraisal value of the whole shebang at $1.4 million, but he won't necessarily turn up his nose at anything less. The minimum bid has been set at $695,000, and if that's all he's offered, that's what he'll take.
Tidying up the club in anticipation of the sale hasn't been easy, but the Bacons are accustomed to the chore. Beth remembers one night when a bandmember climbed onto the room's balcony and dumped a bag of feathers all over the rowdies below--and when the cleaning crew discovered the mess early the next morning, "they totally freaked out, because they thought somebody had been doing some kind of weird ritual. And on another night, we had a customer who'd decided he was a wild and crazy guy urinate on all the credit-card machines. He had to buy all new machines and pay the bookkeeper and the manager who cleaned it all up."
"The clientele, which started out being mainly preppy students from across the street, has, shall we say, evolved over the years," Bacon points out with a laugh. "But I think the spirit of the place has really remained quite consistent. This is a fun, outrageous drinking establishment, and we've loved presenting it to the town of Denver."
One day after Soapy Smith's gave up the ghost, the Gothic Theatre, at 3263 S. Broadway in Englewood, returned from the dead. Its Thursday, June 24, bow had been scheduled to take place the previous Monday, but construction delays had nixed that, and on the big night itself, a few tasks remained incomplete--for instance, the floor in front of the stage was still bare, unpainted concrete. But for anyone who recalls dodging rats at the venue during the early Nineties, when it was overseen by nobody in particular presents head Doug Kauffman, the renovation executed by current owner Steve Schalk and his partners will come as a very pleasant surprise.
Schalk has a background in film-set design, as is clear from the Gothic's new look. Wavy curves turn up on the ceiling, the walls, the bars and the railings, and when they're juxtaposed with the antique light fixtures and bluish hues that are sprinkled about, they gave the interior the feel of an art-deco aquarium. The ornate filigree and multiple tiers on the balconies sometimes impinge on sight lines; the views are fine for those front and center but can be tricky for anyone behind them. However, wings built along the sides of the room provide patrons the opportunity to look down on the musicians from only a few feet away. As I sat above them, two members of Chris Daniels and the Kings, who provided the swinging sounds at the soiree, kept eyeballing me in an effort to remember who the hell I was. Luckily for me, I'd left my Westword name tag at home.