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Last New Year's Eve, Charles Trujillo and Paul Piciocchi opened the sleek and sexy Sutra Room at 1109 Lincoln Street, and soon followed it up with Left on Lincoln, which took over the front portion of the building as well as the patio. They were essentially separate clubs under the same roof, with Sutra catering more to the dance crowd and LOL leaning toward Front Porch types.
It was a big switch from the previous occupant, the Donkey Den, which had followed Cielo, which had followed the original Denver Buffalo Company. But on October 6, the space celebrated yet another incarnation, with a revamped interior that absorbs the LOL portion and makes the two rooms officially one club, Sutra. "You don't feel like you're going into another bar through the back door anymore," says Tobi Salario, Sutra's event and marketing director. "It just made more sense to get the best of both worlds in both clubs instead of closing them off so that you're either at one or the other."
"After Donkey Den closed, everyone was saying it was a cursed corner, which was ridiculous," says Curt Sims, longtime club owner and restaurateur who bought the Denver Buffalo Company and still owns the building. "It had been the Buffalo Company forever, and Cielo was more of an economic-versus-time kind of deal, which got me to remodel and kind of get the ball rolling. And then Donkey Den should've worked. It did work. The volume it was doing was unbelievable. It still should be there."
Instead, the Donkey Den moved out and Sutra moved in. "Paul is a great guy, and he's really committed," Sims says of Piciocchi. "I think he overestimated the development of the area a year ago, thinking that just a lounge could work. It became pretty clear once he opened that he was going to need to add a little more dancing and a bit more mainstream. Instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, he kept the good parts, took some good advice and stuck with it. Really, that's what good nightclub owners do."
What the partners and Mark Strazisar, Sutra's general manager and Sims's business associate, did was make some changes — fast. There used to be no place to sit at the club unless you paid $100 for bottle service; now people can sit at the bar in front and chat. And while Sutra retains much of its seductive charm, the atmosphere is more accessible. "When you have a crowd, especially the ladies, dancing everywhere, that becomes sexy," Salario explains. "We kind of wanted to make the place fun, which is sexy, instead of a lounge that's just kind of sexy."
To promote this fun/sexy feel, William Logan, who also designed the club's new logo, suggested they change the energy on the dance floor by adding two mini-stages and a big mirror so that people can watch themselves dance. The booths around the dance floor have been raised, the DJ booth moved and the Green Room VIP section removed — but the beds are still there, although one-way glass panels have been placed between the beds and the tables in front so that the people on the beds can see out, but the people on the dance floor can't see in. There's also a new dance space behind a large screen above the DJ booth, where Sutra's dancers start things up and guests can dance, too.
And there's a new swing — bungee-corded to the floor so that swingers can't get too high — and a stripper pole, which Salario describes as a walking stick for dancing. "After three or four drinks, people are a bit hesitant to jump up there without something to hold on to," she points out.
The front bar opens daily at 5 p.m., while the dance section is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Sutra has teamed with Alice 105.9 radio for Mash-up Fridays with Slacker, and DJ Amen spins on Saturdays, which are usually kicking with birthdays and bachelorette parties — so expect a few tiaras, boas, "Suck for a Buck" shirts and penis straws.
Sims, who's been in the business for over twenty years, takes a long view of the club world. "The basic 101 of owning a nightclub," he explains, "is if you are fortunate to find a good concept and it works, whether it works for six months or six years, you need to appreciate it.... It takes a combination of timing, luck and a good concept. Obviously, you have to treat it like a business, save your money — and it's not a party place for you. That's the big downfall. The typical things you hear about nightclubs are really true — people get into it for the wrong reasons or people abuse it once they get into it because it's a lot of fun. Because it just doesn't last very long, and they don't make nearly as much money as you think they do."
Club scout: Piciocchi isn't all about Sutra and Tryst, his LoDo club. He recently acquired Bar Aspen (220 Galena Street in Aspen), which he'll run as is until Halloween, then shut down and reopen as the Regal by Thanksgiving. And Sims, who resurrected a tough Larimer Square space when he introduced Lime, is planning to open a third Lime at the new Landmark Project in Greenwood Village next spring.