The old 404 Club on Broadway, in Denver's Baker neighborhood, is being reinvented yet again, this time as Rory's Tavern, an Irish bar. The owners of the last iteration of the bar, Brendan's Pub, have gutted and redone half of the bar, which they opened on New Year's Eve. The other side of the bar is still under construction, but owners Kevin Geraghty and Brian Keller have a vision for a patio, second bar and whiskey display, to be open by the time patio season hits full swing in May.
A friend and I stopped in on a Sunday afternoon and were greeted by a friendly bartender who is from Ireland himself, plus a couple of regulars in their fifties who reminded me of my dad. These friendly older guys offered us some of their cheese fries with marinara sauce, a random creation of Geraghty, the chef of the ownership duo, and they were pretty tasty.
The ambience was definitely that of a classy Irish bar, with an antique piano and an impressive, shiny wooden bar. It also smelled good in there, which is probably something I've never said about a bar this old. My friend and I determined that the smell was reminiscent of vanilla-scented candles.
What is now Rory's has undergone several changes in recent years, after a long residence as the 404 Club, which opened in 1951 and was owned by Jerry Feld and his family for more than sixty years, until 2012. Feld, who passed away in 2014, was a true Denver legend in the bar world; he actually opened the bar before he was old enough to get a liquor license in his own name. The gentlemen we chatted with at the bar were regulars back in Feld's day, and knew the whole family and the regulars from that era. After Feld sold the bar, it was very briefly known as the Denver Wheel Club 404, catering to the Denver Cruisers, but that project didn't stick around very long. In 2013, Geraghty bought the building and reopened a new version of his downtown music venue Brendan's Pub, which still featured live music at the new location. Now it's on to Rory's Tavern, which is focused more on food and booze than music. The drink menu is heavy on craft beers and whiskeys, and the doors open for lunch Wednesday through Sunday, and for a full dinner menu of upscale Irish and American fare nightly — the regulars we talked to especially recommended the corned beef.
The bar's history is kept alive with a framed portion of the wall containing the "Hep Hounds" mural, a reproduction of a painting by the same name by Constance Depler Coleman from the 1970s. The neon 404 Club sign outside is still going to be a part of Rory's; it's just currently being restored to its former glow.
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Specials abound to get new people in the door; there is currently a Groupon special going for a $40 coupon to be spent at Rory's for $24. Geeks Who Drink host a trivia night on Tuesday nights, Wednesdays offer $5 burgers, Thursday night is all about $15 steaks, and Tuesdays also feature a two-for-one deal on entrees, drafts, well drinks and house wines. Clearly we should have come on a Tuesday, since that's a pretty impressive deal. Not to be outdone, Fridays and Saturdays include a $12 prime rib dinner. So pretty much any night of the week, you can get something cheap to drink and eat at Rory's.
Saint Patrick's Day is a big party, of course, as it is at any Irish bar, and since Keller is a big University of Kentucky fan, the bar also has specials for Kentucky Wildcats games. Other events are in the works, as the still-new bar looks to get a routine going.
But things seem to be off to a good start at Rory's, with regulars and staff building an experience that pays homage to the history of the 404 Club while still bringing a new drinking and dining option to the neighborhood.