Sitting at a corner table at McCormick's Fish House & Bar last night, we were reminiscing about when the place opened in 1987, in the corner of the venerable Oxford Hotel, taking over a space that most recently had been a jazz club. This was before LoDo became an official historic district, before John Hickenlooper and his crew opened the Wynkoop Brewing Co., long before Coors Field forever changed the face of this part of downtown.
But for denizens of lower downtown hungry for a spot they could call their own, it was enough. The bar at McCormick's quickly became a neighborhood institution, known for its twice-a-day happy-hour deals, its whenever-it's-snowing $1 Irish coffees and its all-the-time welcoming atmosphere.
The deals will continue, but 24 years after the McCormick's & Schmick chain first moved into Denver and took over this corner, the dining room and bar are getting an upgrade -- an upgrade major enough that both areas will have to close for at least a few weeks.
The bar is going first, closing on Monday, May 23, for work that could run until June 21, and will involve opening up the back Crystal Room (where Westword had its official weekly writers' meetings for a decade -- the unofficial ones, and there were many, were all in the front bar), and removing the giant stained glass pieces currently behind the bar.
The turn-of-the-century (and that's nineteenth-turning-into-twentieth-century) dining room will close for its renovation in mid-June, a project that will involve removing the planter, replacing the chandeliers and adding the sort of snugs you find at the McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant in the Tech Center. While that work is being done, McCormick's will continue to serve meals in the Plum Room, off the main dining area. And the Cruise Room will be open -- although it, too, will be getting a facelift (make that a floor lift: the cracked marble will be replaced) when the bar and dining room projects are done.
Unfortunately, McCormick's will have to close its patio throughout construction -- which means it will be out of commission at the peak of baseball season, notes general manager Mikel Sasek. But at least when all the work is complete, the patio will be back -- and expanded to span the length of both the bar and restaurant along Wazee Street.
And yes, the happy-hour deals -- including the $1 fish tacos that we netted on Taco Tuesdays -- will return, too. McCormick's is still wrestling with where to offer that legendary, twice-a-day happy hour during construction.
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As for the stained glass, which used to be on the exterior of the building, there's no word yet on what will happen to this historic pieces, which technically belong to the hotel, not the restaurant. We'll post updates here as we get them.
In the meantime, now is the perfect time to grab a corner table in the corner bar, and toast a joint that helped change the face of LoDo.