Sputnik Resurrects the Ghosts of South Broadway

A new art installation at Sputnik commemorates all the customers no longer there.
A new art installation at Sputnik commemorates all the customers no longer there. Trevor Liebler
When venues, restaurants and bars are allowed to reopen, South Broadway will have quite a few ghosts.

Already, 3 Kings Tavern and La Cour have announced that they're closing. Even before the pandemic, favorite spots from Famous Pizza to Gildar Gallery had shut down. Business owners on the strip have long complained about sky-high rents and the challenges of doing business in a neighborhood that has rapidly gentrified...and now, things are worse. 

During the shutdown, if you've walked along the street, looking at the boarded-up buildings and once-flourishing restaurants relegated to doing takeout only, you've probably seen some ghosts of your own — spirits of happier times, when the city was rich with arts, culture, music, food and community. Spirits from just a few months ago.

Sputnik is one of those spots that created good times that linger in our memories — and we hope we can have more there soon. While the bar/eatery/hangout at 3 South Broadway successfully shifted to takeout during the stay-at-home closure and longtime customers have continued to order food, the bar is empty.

Trevor Liebler, a bartender who also curated art shows at Sputnik, misses the bar scene so much that he created an installation memorializing them.

"The installation was inspired by boredom, mostly," he says. "I've had an odd obsession with ghosts for a while, but mostly kept it to drawings and paintings. A co-worker, Madeline, and I were brainstorming one afternoon when the idea popped up. Dealing with a bit of loneliness and melancholy from quarantine, it seemed appropriate to bring these feelings to life."

click to enlarge These ghosts remember better times. - TREVOR LIEBLER
These ghosts remember better times.
Trevor Liebler
Together, they came up with the idea of ghosts that would represent the artists, musicians and others who once filled Sputnik. "We've constructed life-sized ghosts to sit at the bar and in the booths, behaving as if they were our customers on a normal night," he explains. "There are lovers, gamblers, loners and more. Each ghost tells a story, but it's up to the viewer to decide what that story is."

If you show up for takeout, you'll be able to see the ghosts through the windows.

Liebler's seen a lot of Denver during his ten years in town, and the cultural scene at Sputnik became a big part of his life. He doesn't want to see it or the rest of South Broadway disappear.

"I feel like I've lived a hundred different lives since I've been here," he explains. "I've been in bands, helped create Barf magazine, painted a few murals around town, that kind of stuff. Art in some shape or form has always been a constant. I've been bartending and curating at Sputnik for about ten months now, and I'd sooner join my ghost buds at the bar than leave this job."
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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris