Gary Lee Bomar inked a deal on a dilapidated property at 176 South Broadway last year, intending to build a bar and restaurant that would serve up smoked meats and cheeses and also feature an expansive patio, which would frequently feature live music.
Before the hammers started swinging, though, his plans for Gary Lee's Motor Club & Grub hit a speedbump: The West Wash Park Neighborhood Association fought his liquor license. But Bomar didn't give up, and after making a few concessions -- scaling back the size of the patio and ditching his idea of installing an outdoor smoker, for instance -- he managed to secure that liquor license and move forward.
Construction on the old garage began last fall, and it's been a major endeavor. "We pretty much rebuilt everything," he explains. "We gutted the place and raised the roof. Even the beams were all rotted. We gave it new life."
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As the building job proceeded, Bomar also worked on nailing down the menu details, and hired Mike Walden, a Vesta Dipping Grill alum whom Bomar met when they both worked at Jonesy's EatBar, and Alvie Claborn, who owns Alvie's Eats food truck, to put the finishing touches on the food. "They both have amazing experience with smoking meats and cheeses," says Bomar. Those items will still be the focus of the menu, he notes. He also plans to serve brunch at Gary Lee's, though he's not sure he'll do that right away.
All of Bomar's hard work has played well with his neighbors. "The neighborhood seems to have warmed up a little bit," he says. "Now that everyone has seen all the work going into the building, they're much more supportive." Bomar hopes to continue building that good will so that he can eventually amend his liquor license, expanding his patio to the size he originally envisioned, and perhaps even bringing in that smoker.
But first, he has to get the place open. Right now, Bomar is geared up to open Gary Lee's on March 1. A version of this story appeared in today's Cafe Bites, our weekly newsletter devoted to Denver's food and drink scene. Find out how to subscribe here.