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By Tom Murphy
The shots that rang out in LoDo last November, killing one and injuring six, had a lasting effect on Hush (1403 Larimer Street), the club a few blocks away where the shooter and his victims had been earlier in the evening.
"In my professional opinion, we handled that situation very well," says club owner Tabor Cowden. "I happened to be there within the first five seconds after the argument started. It wasn't even a fight; it was just a verbal confrontation. We asked the gentlemen to leave the club, which they did. What happened outside of Hush was a little bit outside of my control. People basically think there was a murder in Hush and that there was a crazy shooting. Factually, that situation took place two or three blocks away. It was just an unfortunate event for us. But just based upon the situation, I had to make a change to pay the bills."
Part of that change was revamping the club's interior, as well as its name and basic concept — and what a concept! On January 11, Cowden reopened the space as Open Bar, and at certain times, the name says it all: From 9 to 11 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, after paying a $5 cover, guests can drink free well drinks and domestic beer. Cowden hopes the deal will bring people in earlier. "For us to open our doors at nine and not serve a single cocktail until eleven seemed a little silly to me," he says.
He's also installed a dozen flat-screen TVs, which could help draw an earlier crowd to watch sporting events, and replaced the lounging couches with tables and bar stools. Hush was strictly a nightclub. Open Bar, on the other hand, will start out with more of a bar vibe, then morph into a dance club as the night goes on. It already boasts two of the city's top spinners on the weekends: DJ Bedz on Fridays and DJ Sounds Supreme on Saturdays.
Cowden didn't make the change just to distance his place from the shootings, but also from the other clubs in the area. "I'm under the opinion that there are ten clubs in LoDo that are directly competing against each other for this elite-level bottle service," he says. "There's a new bar opening every other month that's trying to outdo the previous bar. I feel like we're all kind of stabbing each other's backs down here." While Open Bar is still offering bottle service, it's less expensive than it was at Hush: Bottles of Absolut are $100 on Fridays, and bottles of Grey Goose are $120 on Saturdays.
But the open bar is the real bargain, of course. And although some people have suggested the open-bar concept will cater to "the wrong clientele," Cowden says the club will still be selective about who gets in. "We're going to be as strict as we've ever been on dress code," he stresses. "So your riff-raff will not be getting into Open Bar. It's still going to be people who are elite, if you will. But we're not catering to the college crowd and the young punks who are just coming in to get drunk and leave; that's not the goal at all. It was just to be something different compared to the rest of the bars in LoDo, but it's still going to be a high-class establishment."
Club scout: The headlines weren't nearly as big, but the year-old Hodi's Halfnote (167 North College Avenue in Fort Collins) made news when illegal paraphernalia was found in the venue. The owners of the space, formerly the Starlight Ballroom, received a fourteen-day suspension for the violation, and used the downtime to make improvements to the club's stage, sound system and lighting. Hodi's is now back in business and will be bringing in a number of national acts — including Dead Prez, Agent Orange, LA Guns and Mad Professor — as well as featuring local bands on a daily basis.
Back in Denver, DJ Rockstar Aaron, who hosts '80s nights Thursdays at Rockbar (3015 East Colfax Avenue) and Fridays at Bruno's Saloon (8501 East Colfax), just fired up Distortion Disko, a Wednesday dance party at the hi-dive (7 South Broadway), where he'll be spinning electro, new wave, funk, glam and Brit pop, every week. He'll also bring in local and national DJs, including Minneapolis-based DJ Soviet Panda on February 13.