Down an alley between Larimer and Walnut streets, past flowing street-art murals, there's an inconspicuous doorway that could be the back entrance to an office or kitchen. No sign tells you that you've arrived at Greenlight Lab, but if the green light is on above the door, you'll know that there's a cocktail inside for you.
Greenlight Lab (1336 27th Street, in the alley just behind Nocturne) is a new bar from Brandon Anderson, owner of design/architecture firm LIVstudio. While Anderson's firm has designed plenty of bars and restaurants for such clients as Il Posto, Denver Central Market, Hashtag and Concourse (credit LIVstudio with that gorgeous undulating ceiling), this is the first time he's designed a bar for himself. The bar isn't some lavish tour de force, though; instead, it's a simple, almost speakeasy-ish grotto where the focus is first on drinks and second on design.
But don't think design isn't important here, given Anderson's background. The small space, bounded by bookshelves and curtains, will have a rotating array of chairs, stools, tables and other furnishings and art pieces as kind of a test lab to see what works and what doesn't. The constant change will be an interactive experience for guests, who will get to fill out cards to rate the very chairs they're sitting in; a giveaway program will give lucky customers who have filled out rating cards the chance to win free furniture.
Like the decor, much of the bar program, under the guidance of former Kitchen bartenders Dustin Lawler and Kaya Bersto, will be experimental in nature — and up for customer ratings, too. Most of the cocktails on the list will be part of a "beta" program that will encompass far more than mixed bar ingredients. For example, the "ice sphere drink" is a hollow orb of ice filled with a house whiskey blend. The remaining ingredients are poured over the ice and then the sphere is cracked by the server. And with the "beer can drink," a cognac-based cocktail is served in a beer can, with the beer itself served in a sidecar.
These are just some examples of the innovation that will be on display and that may not even make it past opening night; Lawler says he and Anderson share the philosophy that if you don't fail occasionally, that's probably because you're not pushing the limits of creativity.
"Approved" cocktails will stick around longer and will cost a little more, since the recipes have been thoroughly tested. Beta cocktails will run $10 and approved cocktails will ring in at $12. Classic cocktails and pours of spirits will also be available (be sure to ask about the bar's collection of Japanese whisky and amaro). A short list of beers and wines will round out the drinks roster, and there will also be a small slate of bar bites mostly sourced from businesses inside Denver Central Market (just on the other side of the wall from the bar), with bread from Izzio Artisan Bakery, chocolates from Temper, and a range of charcuterie and cheeses.
Greenlight Lab will officially debut on Tuesday, November 7 at 5 p.m.; after that, it will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to midnight. For now, reservations are not being taken.