By Gina Tron
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Bill Ward learned a hard lesson in Larimer Square, where he owned Below Bar and Slim 7: At most clubs, you only have a small window — say, from 10 p.m. until closing — when you can make money. But now that he's out of Larimer Square altogether, Ward's planning to open that window wide at miniBAR (222 Columbine Street), the joint he opened a year ago.
Instead of keeping the space closed until 4 p.m., this weekend Ward will open it for lunch, with a menu revamped by new chef Eric Olson. And he hopes to start opening it even earlier, at 7 a.m., by the end of the month. MiniBAR's lounge-y environment is perfect for a coffee shop, Ward points out: They'll just open up the front windows so people can get coffee to go.
Within a few weeks, Ward will also be partnering with club veteran Mark Strazisar, who runs Sutra. Together they'll make miniBAR more of a European-type establishment. "It could be a really fun project that's different than anything else in town," Ward says. "It's a place where people can go lounge, listen to music if they want to, get on their computer. And as the night progresses, it usually gets a little louder, with a different type of crowd, until we're more of a club." DJs, some national, will spin on weekend nights, and at special parties during the week. On Saturdays, it's all you can drink from 10 p.m. to close for $20.
As for Larimer Square, there's a good chance that Frank Bonanno will take over the Below Bar space. In late April, Ward had tried turning it into a gay bar, but he gave up on that in late June. "We weren't making the money we needed to down there," Ward says. And there's good precedent for a chef taking over former club space in Larimer Square: In 2008, after a two-year run with Slim 7, Ward turned that location over to Troy Guard. Today it's the bottom floor of TAG.
Club scout: Construction on Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill — in the massive, 22,000-square-foot space at 8260 Northfield Boulevard that was formerly a Borders — should be complete in the next few weeks, with an opening slated for the end of the month. Named after Keith's hit-country single, "I Love This Bar." the venue will sport an 85-foot guitar-shaped bar, a ton of Keith memorabilia, a dance floor and live music five nights a week.