City Spirit Reunion will celebrate that hipster hangout on Friday
Every generation of hipsters has its hangout, and from 1984 until 1997 in Denver, that place was City Spirit, an eclectic cafe that opened at 1434 Blake Street four years before the Lower Downtown Historic District was formally established, and long before LoDo became the mainstream mainstay it is today.
The project of developer Mickey Zeppelin and artist Susan Wick, City Spirit started after Zeppelin bought the Victorian building, moved his office there and opened an architectural bookstore in the basement, then started having speakers. Wick began serving lunch on Fridays to go with the discussions, and talked about what a great restaurant the first floor would be. And then one day, Zeppelin remembers, Wick told him, "We've got to do the restaurant -- I ordered chairs today!" And that was the start of something very, very big -- which will be commemorated at the City Spirit Reunion at Taxi on Friday.
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For more than a dozen years, City Spirit was the hub of hip activity in LoDo, with art exhibits fashion shows and live music to augment the creative cooking in the kitchen.
And then there was City Spirit's infamous drink, the La La. At one point, they had a special deal for anyone who could drink four of them -- until they realized they were losing money when they had to pay $25 for a cab to take the victorious drinker home. But then, City Spirit was never about the money. "I loved the energy, especially at a time when there was hardly anything around there," Zeppelin says. "It was a gathering place, and energy spread out."
"So many conversations took place over that bar," recalls Tracy Weil, who worked at City Spirit, eventually moving up to manage and book the place. And though he's since gone on to co-found the RiNo arts district as well as the Denver County Fair, he remembers City Spirit -- and the La La -- very fondly. "A lot of people in my generation made their first connections with friends there. Now they've all gone on their merry ways to embrace their lives, but it's nice to think of the past, when they hung out at the bar, drank La Las and chatted about politics and other stuff."
Weil will be back behind the bar from 7 to 10 p.m. on Friday, for the City Spirit Reunion that will fill the Taxi Cafe space at Taxi, the development that Zeppelin and Wick started a decade ago. When the couple decided to close City Spirit, Zeppelin stored many of the tables and booths that Wick had decorated, as well as the bar, and she's been slowly moving those into the Taxi Cafe. People popping by from Fuel, the restaurant next door, would recognize them, and mention how much they missed City Spirit. So many people talked about it that Wick decided the time was right for a reunion.
"In a way, Susan is resurrecting at Taxi what might become the next rendition of City Spirit," Weil notes, "since that community is growing in a similar fashion."
Close to 150 people have signed on for the party; one veteran is flying in from Chicago. Admission is free, but drinks are not; bring cash...and lots of memories.
To start priming the pump, post your favorite memories about City Spirit below.
A version of this story originally appeared on Cafe Bites, our e-mail newsletter on the Denver drinking and dining scene that's delivered every Wednesday; find out how to sign up here.
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