The area at East 13th Avenue and Pearl Street in Capitol Hill is witnessing a bar and restaurant mini-revival. Beatrice & Woodsley owner John Skogstad is bringing his whimsical vision to 1310 Pearl Street with Mighty Sparrow & the Sea Captain, while the team behind Beauty Bar will soon reopen the space as Pearl’s. And another new deal has been inked right across the street: Hudson Hill, a cocktail and wine bar, will be kicking off construction soon at 619 East 13th with a goal of opening this winter.
Jake Soffes is the man behind the plan; he's a New York native who moved to Denver two years ago and decided to take his fourteen years of service-industry experience to the next level by opening his own place. Soffes says Capitol Hill reminds him of Williamsburg, and he wants to build the kind of space he was fond of in that Brooklyn neighborhood as well as the East Village bars and eateries where he worked. Hudson Hill, which takes its name from a combination of the Hudson River and Capitol Hill, will be small — only thirty to fifty seats — and will feature a concise list of house cocktails supplemented by variations on classics; a wine roster that will lean toward the bold but approachable; and a few tap handles for beers, supplemented by seasonal and special-release bottles. Signature cocktails will be designed with the Denver lifestyle in mind and will feature bright flavors and fresh, local ingredients.
The food program will comprise mostly bar bites, with a rotating selection of cheeses, pickles, housemade potted meats and other cafe-style plates. Although Soffes attended culinary school in New York, his expertise is in front-of-the-house management. "I'm not a sommelier, I'm not a chef, I'm not a mixologist," he explains, adding that instead he's a student of all aspects of restaurant management, with the end goal of providing the best customer experience possible.
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In the old days, the maitre d' or manager was the face of the restaurant — but things have changed in recent years. "One person who never gets recognition is the GM," Soffes adds.
In addition to focusing on customers, Soffes wants Hudson Hill to be a comfortable spot for neighbors and a quieter alternative to the dance club going in across 13th. The decor will have the clean lines of a European cafe, but with "pioneer elements" — like a massive slab cut lengthwise from a whole Douglas fir for the bar top — as a nod to the bar's Western setting. Vintage deco furnishings will be supplemented by Soffes's collection of antique Navajo rugs and photography by his father. And the whole space will be warmed by a soundtrack played on vinyl, with selections including the entire Rolling Stones catalogue, Led Zeppelin, '60s soul, jazz, and a little '90s hip-hop just for fun.
Soffes has already secured a liquor license for the 1,400-square-foot space and has lined up architects, designers and contractors to begin work as soon as his permits come through, so he expects the work to go quickly. Builders are already busy fabricating specific elements so they can be quickly installed once the the city gives the go-ahead.
While Capitol Hill has been known in the past as a gritty neighborhood with dive bars and punk music, Soffes sees the demographic as young, creative and up-and-coming. It's an audience he's familiar with from Manhattan, and one he is targeting with Hudson Hill. And while many Denver neighborhoods are driving out residents with escalating rents, he thinks Capitol Hill is still one of the better bargains inside city limits.