John Qualley was at the Appaloosa Grill (535 16th Street) when it opened almost five years ago, working his way up the ranks from server to bar manager, and then, reluctantly, taking over as general manager. At the time, the Appaloosa wasn't doing well; this particular corner of the mall wasn't conducive to the sort of adventurous dining that John Hickenlooper, founder of the Wynkoop Brewing Co., had originally envisioned for the place -- and Qualley wasn't sure he wanted to put in the effort to make it succeed. After all, he had his musical career and Oakhurst, the band that he and Adam Hill had started back in 1999, to think of.
Still, Qualley took the job, made a few staff changes and, most important, amped up the Appaloosa's musical offerings. And on July 11, he and his partners took over ownership of the place, following in the footsteps of Brian Sammatino, who last year bought the Red Room (320 East Colfax Avenue) out of Wynkoop Holdings. (When he became mayor, Hickenlooper's restaurant ventures moved into a trust.) But while the Appaloosa is now a completely independent entity, the Wynkoop folks have made the transition easy, Qualley says. Wynkoop accountant Tracy Gonzales is even a partner in the new joint, as are Hill and chef Tim Erwin, who also performs in the band I See Spies.
As a musician, Qualley's quite proud of the bands and artists he's booking. Although he'd like to bring in national acts at some point, he doesn't want the Appaloosa to become a typical national-act venue. Right now the majority of the bands come through recommendations and referrals from musicians who've already played there, and he likes the organic, close-knit feeling that's created. "It's all about the vibe of the place; that's what it revolves around," he says.
The Appaloosa is still a restaurant and bar, as well as a club that offers live music seven nights a week (including Oakhurst on Thursdays). "We're embracing our schizophrenia," Qualley says. "Being able to take over ownership at a point where we are at the top of our game is very special, and I couldn't do it without the support of my partners."
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At this point, Johnnie Johnson would just like a little support from anyone. His non-profit (very) Innervision, which bills itself as "the hippest public charity in Colorado," is looking for another home for its G-rated shows, which are taped and later aired on KBDI-Channel 12. Most recently, the group has been at Pink E's (6080 West 92nd Avenue, Westminster), but Johnson and company aren't drawing enough fans to make their gig at that rock-and-pool venue anything more than a monthly event, and the venue's booking agent has suggested Innervision find a church or other venue. "Entertainers have to have fans that will come to shows," she explains, "because otherwise, there will be nobody there for them to entertain."
In addition to presenting live music six nights a week and the monthly Innervision show, Pink E's has another TV gig going right now, with the weekly Coloradorock Music Show filmed at the club and broadcast on Fox on Thursdays. (Go to www.pinkesentertainment.com for more information on performing.)
So where does Innervision go next? "Someplace that has an audience base," says Johnson, the most optimistic man in show business. "It doesn't matter what kind of music."