Last Monday I said a final farewell to Patsy's Inn, which supplied north Denver with fresh pasta and red sauce for more than ninety years, and then walked around the block before heading back to my car. Along the way, I passed a semi-demolished structure at the corner of West 37th Avenue and Mariposa Street — another aging home, I at first assumed, that had become a victim of redevelopment and would soon become something boxy and covered in faux stucco.
But a mural in a distinct 1960s style on the exposed inner walls caught my attention; it appeared to be illustrations of Mexican musicians and musical instruments. A detailed map of Mexico on one side labeled the gray, amorphous U.S. at the top as "Tierra del Gringo."
Back at my computer, I had no luck at first in determining what the building had been. But I talked to John Ludwig, owner of Carl's Pizza at 3800 West 38th Avenue, who was born and raised in the neighborhood. I described what I had seen, and he suggested that it had probably been the Tico Tico Club, a dance hall he remembered going to in the early 1980s. That made sense, considering the words "Tico Tico" painted on one of the drums in the mural.
Seizing that bit of information, I soon discovered that Ludwig was correct. The Tico Tico was opened in 1969 and owned by one Lloyd Tapia, who — by Yelp accounts from 2007 — was still keeping the joint open on and off at least through that year.
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By 2011, though, the space was definitely vacant, and in 2014, signs of redevelopment were evident. At the time, Craig Cordts-Pearce of CP Restaurant Group, which runs CP Burger, the Monarch, the Wild Fig and Steakhouse No. 316 in Aspen, had signed a lease and was working on a restaurant concept, but those plans have been on hold for some time, according to a spokesman for the restaurant group, because of significant structural problems with the building. The property owner is listed as Opus One LLC in Denver County records.
So the old Tico Tico could have been resurrected, but now any new edifice on the site will barely resemble the old, divey club. Still, the fact that those murals have not yet been destroyed is evidence that perhaps they will someday grace the interior of something new.
Here's how the Tico Tico Club looked in 2011, 2014 and later that same year. And here's a rendering of how the building could have looked had it been completed two years ago. It appears that some structural work was begun in 2014, but any changes have since been ripped out.
Did you frequent the Tico Tico? Let us know your recollections of the place in the comments section below.