Openings and Closings

Thunderbird Imperial Lounge Closes at Former Home of Longo's Subway Tavern

The Thunderbird's retro style didn't leave a lasting impression on the neighborhood.
The Thunderbird's retro style didn't leave a lasting impression on the neighborhood. Westword
Larimer Associates has a pretty good track record with refurbishing old establishments and turning them into new neighborhood hangouts: LoHi Steakbar, Billy's Inn and Ernie's Bar & Pizza come to mind, along with a considerable percentage of the dining square footage at Larimer Square. But the location at 3759 Lipan Street has proven particularly tricky. The latest attempt to gain a foothold there, the Thunderbird Imperial Lounge, is now closed. This message appeared on the Thunderbird's Facebook page on July 15:

To our valued patrons, friends, family, and fans:

As of close of business on Friday, July 14 The Thunderbird Imperial Lounge has closed its doors for business permanently.

It’s been a fun ride, and we’re proud of the successes we’ve had and friends we’ve made, but it’s time for us and our staff to move on, and for all of us to find our next great opportunity…
Thank you all for your warm reception, great reviews, support, and friendship — we’ll see you on the next adventure!

-The Thunderbird Imperial Lounge
The Thunderbird, which had only been open since November 2016, was a joint project of Larimer Associates and restaurateur Jesse Morreale, whose previous venues included El Diablo, Sketch and Rockbar.

Joe Vostrejs, a partner in Larimer Associates, says the reasons for closing were "the same as usual: sales just didn't meet expectations. Jesse Morreale was working his tail off, though."

He adds: "We've had a couple of very talented operators in there. We haven't quite figured out the space...I'm still a strong believer in it, though."

The address itself has a long history in north Denver, having served as a neighborhood watering hole from the early 1900s. Many nearby residents remember the place as Longo's Subway Tavern, which closed in 2012 after more than fifty years in business. Larimer Associates took over the space and, after a major renovation and expansion, opened Sunnyside Burger Bar in 2014, then changed the concept to TAG Burger Bar in conjunction with chef/restaurateur Troy Guard.

The bar's location at the corner of West 38th Avenue and Lipan Street puts it in a transitional zone between trendy LoHi and the more residential Sunnyside neighborhood. While longtime favorite Chubby's has thrived at the intersection, so far nothing has caught on since the Subway Tavern closed. Nostalgia can be a tough act to follow.

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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation