It's always been a challenge to lure foot traffic from the 16th Street Mall to a club three levels up at the Denver Pavilions — and it's especially challenging now, with the space undergoing a major renovation. But Jazz@Jack's (500 16th Street, #320) came up with a simple solution: Pipe whatever music is playing inside the club out to the sidewalk. That's all it took to hook me the night I walked by the Pavilions and heard killer blues pumping onto the mall. I went right up to Jack's, and when I got inside, I found guitarist Ricky Earl laying into some mean Louisiana blues.
I grabbed a seat at the back bar, ordered a beer and studied the Dotsero CDs and sheet music underneath a layer of lacquer on the bar. Dotsero is not just the house band; the contemporary-jazz group actually owns the house, along with Darrick Brown and Sandra Holman-Watts. But Dotsero is more than willing to share the spotlight. The club brings in a steady stream of jazz acts on the weekends, as well as Nelson Rangell on Sundays and big bands most Mondays. And Jack's gets its share of blues, funk and neo-soul artists, too.
During his last tune of the night, Earl sang "I'm gonna leave my woman and go on home back to my wife" — and it seemed like a good time to head out for an entirely different experience. So I walked over to the Coyote Ugly Saloon, also on the third floor of the Pavilions.
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I'd gone to the original Coyote Ugly in New York's East Village in the late '90s, just before the movie about the bar was released and a few years before the second Coyote Ugly opened in Las Vegas (there are now eleven locations nationally). Like New York's bartenders, Denver's were all hot and sassy — but not hot enough to justify my having to wait fifteen minutes to get a drink. I was about to leave when a gal finally came over and asked me what I wanted. I ordered a beer and slapped a twenty down on the bar; she put the bill on the register and went on pouring drinks for other people. While I was waiting for my change, another guy sat down next to me. Ten minutes went by. Still no change, and the guy sitting next to me hadn't ordered, either. There were three bartenders on duty, enough to easily handle the small crowd, but the gals were caught up in doing body shots with customers and dancing on the bar. By the time I finally got my change, I'd finished my beer.
Club scout: The state seized the Recovery Room (819 Colorado Boulevard) for non-payment of taxes last January, but it turned out to be only a temporary flatline for the legendary dive. Chris Campbell and Mark Lane, who own the Old Towne Tavern (2410 West Main Street in Littleton), stepped in and revived the place, and it reopened last weekend.
Campbell says the previous owner, who ran the spot for nearly three years, basically disappeared; he promises that he and Lane will keep out the riffraff. After taking over the property last month, they spruced up the bar with a new coat of paint, installed new beer taps and brought in new bar stools and flat-screen TVs. And they made another important addition: They added food. Although Campbell says the kitchen is the size of a closet, the Recovery Room will serve hot dogs, Italian sausage and other items from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. It will also feature happy hours that include dollar discounts off most drinks from 2 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, as well as nightly specials from 9 p.m. to close.
Bill Ward knows how to do big things with small spaces, too. As owner of Slim 7 (now part of Troy Guard's soon-to-open TAG restaurant) and Below (1442 Larimer Street), he's done well with underground spots. And now he has another: miniBAR, which opened last week under the old Village Inn at 2623 East Second Avenue with Michael Wahaltere acting as executive chef, consultant and manager.