Since its construction in 1883, the building at 1301 Santa Fe Drive has been home to everything from a hardware store to a grocery store to Hoffbrau Tavern & Grill, which lasted more than two decades at that address. But a few years ago, the bar's then-owner started neglecting the space, and John Athanasopoulos, who's owned the building for the past six years, says the Hoffbrau got a pretty bad reputation.
Athanasopoulos, who's opened quite a few restaurants around town since 1977, finally stepped in a few months ago and took over the space after the owner got behind on rent and taxes. He installed new equipment in the kitchen, fixed a leaky roof, repaired the bathrooms — which used to be so smelly they could knock you down, he says — and generally gave the dark dive bar a good scrubbing. Last month, the spot reopened as 1301 Santa Fe Tavern & Grill. Although it's already much cleaner than it was before, Athanasopoulos says he's still fixing up the place; the upstairs patio, for example, needs a lot of attention. He also has plans to move the outside bar inside, making the patio much bigger and turning part of the second level into a game room with a couple of pool tables and pinball.
Athanasopoulos has also revamped the lunch and dinner menu to include steaks, hamburgers, fish and Greek food. But while the place has a new look and new food, he says the bar is still attracting a lot of its old regulars — who appreciate the changes.
A few blocks away, Chances (1135 Bannock Street) is gradually building its own set of regulars. Mike Villano (known as Mike V. to most folks), former leader of the rap-metal band Chaos Theory, says his three-month-old "modern sports bar" is starting to bring in a good lunch and happy-hour crowd. At night it transforms into more of a nightclub/lounge, with occasional DJs on the weekends and service-industry nights on Mondays.
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Villano, who's getting some help from Tryst owner Paul Piciocchi, says the name of his place was partly inspired by his six-year-old son, Chance, but also by the fact that the word "chances" means opportunities — and there are always plenty in the bar business.
Club scout: The folks at 303 magazine have taken over the short-lived Chique (and Zen Ultra Lounge before that) at 940 Lincoln Street, renaming it 303|Agency. They'll use it as an office and studio space during the day and an event center by night.
Superstar Productions and Interplanetary recently launched Drumfounded, an underground dance night on the third Friday of the month at Sugar House (1395 West Alameda Avenue). And Livewire Urban Radio has introduced Chocolate City, a new hip-hop and R&B night Thursdays at Fuego Fuego (704 Peoria Street). On September 16, DJ FXP will celebrate his birthday there with Hustle & Flow, Mansin Rabbit, DJ GF, Juz Bo and more; there are $5 drink specials all night long, and ladies get in free until 11 p.m.