Bar Max owner Marshall Smith isn't mincing words when he talks about the health and safety of the public and his customers in particular. On Thursday, March 25, he posted this statement on his bar's Instagram account:
Any and all teachers, union-members, diligent mask wearers and empiricists are more than welcome in our bar.
If everyone would have just followed the very basic and simple task of wearing a mask and social distancing, we could have saved hundreds of thousands of American lives, kept millions of people employed, improved the mental well-being of millions more, and countless other benefits.
Bar Max, at 2412 East Colfax Avenue, has been open only for takeout since the pandemic began and COVID-related restrictions hit Colorado's bars and restaurants. For the past year, Smith and his team have continued to offer to-go booze and a small menu of food, as well as Zoom cocktail classes and themed boxes for special occasions. Although the place offered outdoor seating sporadically last fall, Smith ultimately wasn't comfortable with the risk.
"I have been very conservative on opening because I have parents who have their own health concerns," he explains. "Can you imagine the guilt if you got sick and then passed it on to your family?"
In the same Instagram message that extolled the value of masks and science, Smith also made another major announcement — that Bar Max will be reopening its long, narrow space on April 2. But the conditions of that reopening are very specific:
And! We re-open April 2nd for those who have been fortunate enough to be vaccinated. We look forward to seeing everyone soon. As you are able to get vaccinated please come and see us.
"That's a conscious decision that I've made to reopen as a place of normalcy," the bar owner adds. "Everyone here can have peace of mind."
Smith didn't come to these decisions easily. He's also a teacher, and had to wait his turn for vaccinations, which became available to teachers and other school employees on February 8, with group 1B.2 of Colorado's vaccine rollout. He also knows that his stance could cost him customers. "But that's up to them," he adds. "There are plenty of other places people can go that are already open."
Bar Max originally opened in 2013 as Cafe Max, under then-owners Maxwell Hopewell-Arizmendi and Yukihiko Koyama. Smith purchased it in September 2019; he points out that he only had about five or six months of "normal" before the pandemic hit. But during that brief time, he was able to connect with regulars and share their perspective as business owners and residents of Cheesman Park, Congress Park and other nearby neighborhoods.
"Our clientele are engaged; they care," he notes, so he's not expecting too many arguments at the door from bar-hoppers just looking for their next round of drinks.
Smith has been working with creative ingredients during his bar's slow time, so if you order drinks to-go, you might find the flavors of galangal, kumquats, dragonfruit or strawberry-basil in the mix. Or you could take home a kit with all the makings of Bees Knees and Sakura cocktails, complete with salty snacks.
But come April, if you want to enjoy your drinks inside Bar Max, you'll have to follow the rules.