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By Nate Hemmert
Time waits for no man, but it sure does wonders for a good bar.
The Bull & Bush opened back in 1971 in the heart of Glendale as a cozy-but-campy re-creation of the famed English pub in Hampstead Heath. Thirty years later, the timeworn B&B is one of the metro area's most revered and successful taverns. Thanks to three decades of wear and tear, the once-tacky ambience looks almost genuine these days, blending seamlessly with the pub essentials of dependable food, decent beer and spirits.
Fortunately, the founders -- twin brothers Dean and Dale Peterson -- were publicans of the patient sort. "Every city needs a place that doesn't change," says Dean Peterson. "In the '80s, in the recession, we struggled. Everybody said, 'Why don't you change the place, remodel it?' I told them, 'We're not going to do it.' Now look at us. We've come back; business has doubled in the last five years. That's unheard of in this business."
4700 Cherry Creek Drive S.
Denver, CO 80246
Category: Bars and Clubs
Region: Southeast Denver
In its prime, Glendale served as party central for Denverites who wouldn't dream of venturing into the skid-row dives of lower downtown. While that part of Denver is now the ultra-hip LoDo, Glendale's strip of bars long ago morphed into strip clubs, strip malls and strip housing. The Bull is the last of a once-wild Glendale breed.
But like its neighborhood, the Bull & Bush has also matured. Erik and David Peterson, sons of Dale, now run the place; they attribute the second-generation rewards they've reaped to the perseverance of their father and uncle. "I'm starting to get people that come here in their young twenties," Erik says. "They're saying, 'Oh, my parents met back here in the early '70s.' We're getting a whole other generation of Coloradans making this their hangout." And some, he suspects, may be able to trace their origins back to the B&B itself. A few relationships were "possibly consummated in the bar, or at least the bathrooms," he says. "I heard the bathrooms were pretty wacky back in the old days."
"It was the last of the good-time bars," says David Booker, a musician who played the bar in its singles-scene prime. "It was never a bad night there."
The B&B carries on its musical tradition every Sunday, when it hosts one of the longest-running jazz nights in the nation. Fans of the music are as loyal as the bar's regular clientele. "I grew up on jazz; it's part of my life," says Eva Randell, sliding into the booth next to us on a recent Sunday night. Randell has been soaking up the B&B's Sunday jazz sessions since 1972. After her husband died two years ago, she decided to continue coming, but solo. "I'm here every Sunday night," she says. "I'm 81."
As she settles in, more seniors, middle-agers and a few sharply dressed hipsters take their places at tables around the B&B's main room. Many of the older set have grandkids in tow. Visitors file in and greet each other with hugs and knowing nods, adding a family-reunion vibe to the evening. At 6:30 p.m. sharp, Alan Frederickson raises his trombone and leads his seven-piece combo into a rollicking, vintage instrumental rich with the sonic flavors of New Orleans. He and his mates (a khaki-clad group of moonlighting doctors, attorneys, dentists and others) play with head-cutting skill, the clarinet player, coronet player and banjo player stepping closer to a lone microphone to take grade-A solos. Randell rocks gently in her seat, the bangles on her wrists twirling in time with the music.
"Some people try to preserve folk music," says Dale Peterson, "I try to preserve the classic jazz." Dale was a ragtime pianist, and his brother played banjo in the same style. The two launched the B&B as a way to add to their list of eateries while indulging their love of music. (A list of the pair's former restaurants includes Simms Landing, Marina Landing, Off Belleview Grill and the late Ichabod's; they still own and run the Manor House in Ken Caryl Ranch.) Among the classic-jazz heavies who played at the Bull were Al Hirt, Earl "Fatha" Hines, Pete Fountain, Burt Bayles and coronetist Ernie Carson; in the early '80s, the B&B was also a desir-able gig for lesser-known acts such as the Fornicators, who lured beyond-capacity crowds to the establishment. The bar was the first in town to feature darts and satellite-TV programming, as well, Dale says.
For Frederickson and the other acts that play here on Sundays (including Your Father's Mustache and the Queen City Jazz Band), the Bull still plays a valuable role. "It keeps my band together," Frederickson says. "It's the only place in town where there's a collective improvisation that is not so-called modern jazz. This is the old stuff -- but don't call it Dixieland," advises Frederickson, who founded the Queen City group and the Summit Jazz Foundation. "Dixieland has to do with minstrel shows and that sort of thing. That's not what this is. This is collective improvisation, with reverence for the literature of the classic idiom."