The original Capitol Hill space at 13th and Downing was built as Betty M. Lauder’s dry goods shop in the mid-1920s and converted to a restaurant in the ’30s. Around 1945, the building became the Lighthouse Inn, a bar rumored to be one of Jack Kerouac’s hangouts in the late ’40s.
In 1979, Thom Salturelli opened Cricket on the Hill in the space. Originally, Cricket on the Hill was just a neighborhood joint, opening at 7 a.m. and catering to old-timers who wanted morning coffee and a shot. At the time, there were few live-music venues in Capitol Hill. By 1980, Cricket on the Hill had changed that, hosting live music – often local acts playing their first show – every night. For close to thirty years, the venue was a dirty, uncut gem of the local music scene.
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Big Head Todd and the Monsters played their first Denver show at the Cricket. Longtime fixture Denver Joe & the Lovesick Saddle Tramps played a set every Monday night for years. On Sundays, Baggs Patrick hosted an open mic. The Swanks, Black Lamb, Buckwild, the Emmas, Pin Downs, Dogs of Pleasure, Babihed and even Bo Diddley graced the stage. If you didn’t play the Cricket, you didn’t play Denver. Cricket on the Hill closed on March 15, 2008. Nicolo’s Chicago Style Pizza sits there now.
The Denver Bootleg is a series chronicling the history of local music venues by longtime Denver cartoonist Karl Christian Krumpholz. Visit Krumpholz's website to see more of his work.