And Melnick's artistic imprint runs through the Zephyr, the iconic bar that's been in his family for nearly seven decades. While many might consider the bar to be a classic dive simply because of its vintage, it's actually warm and welcoming on the inside rather than dank and dark. Aesthetically, it reflects the charming, eclectic personality of its owner, who holds a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Minnesota yet has a professed penchant for collecting thrift-store artwork.

"When my dad was finishing up his career here after 57 years — he was 87 years old — the bar was kind of sleepy, so I woke it up," says Melnick, seated in a corner booth, his soft-spoken voice nearly drowned out by the peripheral conversations of the regulars streaming in during the second of three happy hours.

In addition to the hand-curated, secondhand-store art adorning the walls, as well as the updated carpeting, Melnick has customized the nightly programming, implementing everything from rock-and-roll bingo and karaoke to poker and live music. He picked all the songs on the jukebox himself and even hired a chef.

Can Sprouts and Chick-fil-A co-exist on East Colfax?
Christopher Morgan
Can Sprouts and Chick-fil-A co-exist on East Colfax?
The State Capitol Building is being refreshed.
Christopher Morgan
The State Capitol Building is being refreshed.

"I like to look at the bar as a historic business, and I want people to think of it that way. It's not a sports bar. It's not a yuppie bar. It's a traditional bar that's been here in the neighborhood, but then it has overtones of being a club on the weekends," he says.

It's definitely not the kind of bar that belongs in the media spotlight.

But while the personality of the Zephyr has changed, so has the Aurora neighborhood around it. "There was a motel next door here; it was a prostitution, crack city over there," he says. "It just really caused everybody in the neighborhood problems, major problems. So finally the city closed it down. That's been a good thing."

The Zephyr opened in 1947, which makes it one of the longest-running businesses in Aurora. Melnick's dad, Barry, moved to Denver in his early twenties and launched the Zephyr here because of its proximity to the Fitzsimons Army Medical Center. A former soldier himself, Barry felt a connection to the military men and women he served.

Fitzsimons closed in 1999, and these days, the bar's customers are made up of the construction workers charged with helping to redevelop the area, along with students from the University of Colorado's Anschutz Medical Campus, which sits just down the road on the land where Fitzsimons used to be. There are also plenty of regulars who live nearby, one of whom was most assuredly not a certain accused mass murderer, Melnick insists, in spite of news reports from last July to the contrary.

"I'm still getting repercussions from it," says Melnick, who admits to playfully baiting the relentless reporters who kept hounding him, refusing to believe that James Holmes had not been in the bar, by suggesting that he might have surveillance video of the alleged perpetrator singing Batman songs at karaoke. He didn't, of course.

"When this originally broke, these people didn't realize that he had the Bozo haircut," Melnick notes. "So they're telling me he was here. If Bozo walked in the door in a place like this, everybody would turn around." — Dave Herrera

MSUD Athletic Fields

West Colfax Avenue and Shoshone Street

For the past quarter-century, Colfax has been an impenetrable barrier between the Auraria campus and the neighborhood south of it, more unyielding than the Maginot Line or the space-time continuum. Cars roar down the viaduct at lightning speed, and a steady procession of light-rail trains gliding along the southern edge of the campus seems designed to pick off any pedestrians the cars miss. Daunting as the situation is, planners at Metropolitan State University of Denver, as eager to extend the school's turf as they are to add syllables to its name, have come up with a bold plan.

If you can't get across Colfax, go under it.

Look south as you're lead-footing it along the viaduct, and you'll see something startling among the rust and weeds of the battered industrial zone there: freshly leveled earth. The school recently broke ground on the construction of eight tennis courts, baseball and softball diamonds, and a soccer field, all to be carved out of 12.5 acres of land contaminated with toluene and other toxins, the site of a former Unocal chemical warehouse.

The turf on the new fields will be artificial; anything that requires irrigation, like real grass, would also help spread the plume of groundwater poison under the site. The most direct access to the area from the existing campus will probably involve some kind of route under the viaduct. But for Metro, as well as for many residents of the adjacent La Alma-Lincoln Park neighborhood, the project is a field of dreams. Not only does it represent a sensible, relatively inexpensive reclaiming of an industrial wasteland, but MSUD has committed to adding a walking trail around the perimeter and making the fields available for use by neighborhood groups. Sean Nesbitt, the school's director of facilities planning, has suggested the fields could eventually host summertime camps and clinics and be part of a larger effort to "return baseball to the inner city."

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10 comments
From_Denver
From_Denver

Man, I guess I never thought I would see the day people would be so  up in arms about a fried chicken joint being built on Colfax.

Colfax, you've changed. 

ljhliesl
ljhliesl

Sean Mandel deliberately lies when he "insists" he has received "only two complaints" about Chick-Fil-A. I attended a neighborhood meeting in February with about two dozen neighbors, all of whom opposed the restaurant and pointed out the disadvantages and harm it would inflict on the neighborhood. That was just one meeting that people bothered to attend. He might have "received" two complaints by formal business letter, but he has heard and seen and been exposed to many, many more complaints about the restaurant (and about his duplicity). 

Mandel_Ruins_Colfax
Mandel_Ruins_Colfax

Sean Mandel is lying again.  The entire South City Park Association has complained about Chick-a-Fil.  The drive thru does not meet the city's Colfax Plan and was snuck in on lies by him.  The writers need to contact the association and see all he has done to avoid working with us.  He has stated to us that Sprouts is non-viable on it's own as a tenant and they MUST have a drive thru...  We do not trust, nor like him!

Sean, you are not welcome in SCP! Keep coming here on dates and I will harrass you in front of them!

berniedan
berniedan

I was surprised that the article failed to mention Duman's Custom Tailors. It has been right around the corner from the Capitol forever, and if anything demonstrated the eclectic nature of East Colfax Avenue, it was that shop.

Johnny Genova
Johnny Genova

I was gonna say, isn't it the longest street in the country? Cause if its not I've been lying to my out of town peps.

Conor Tewell
Conor Tewell

Fuck that, the longest avenue in the country! Represent

Ariel Amirinoor
Ariel Amirinoor

Savanna Sailas Tashina Morsulus Garett W. McKee COLFAX!!!

jtcolfax
jtcolfax

interesting.  one other thing that should be mentioned is the latter day phenomenon of calling the street, "the Fax".  that is appalling and must cease.

 
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