Grateful Dead diehard Jay Bianchi is tired of being in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Adapting to the COVID-19 shutdown proved difficult for the entrepreneur, who has provided jam-band fans and musicians a home for their music for more than two decades, building community and occasionally "doing punches" with staffers and customers along the way.
Over the past few months, Bianchi's bars Sancho's Broken Arrow (741 East Colfax Avenue) and Be on Key Psychedelic Ripple (1700 Logan street) were both closed by the City of Denver for public-health violations. Then Be on Key caught fire, destroying much of Bianchi's business and many of his personal belongings, including photographs of him with brother Phil Bianchi, who passed away in the summer of 2017.
A quarter-century of dreams appeared to be going up in smoke.
Then Tyler Bishop, a lifelong jam-band fan and restaurateur who had hung out at the various Bianchi venues over the years, reached out with an offer to buy Sancho's Broken Arrow and Be on Key Psychedelic Ripple.
"He saw I was in a situation, and he decided to help me out," says Bianchi. "He gave me a good price that works for me."
While Be on Key won't reopen under that name, Bishop plans to bring back Sancho's. He's still finalizing licensing and getting the bar set up; he hopes it will open in the next few weeks. But in the meantime, he has another big project under way.
Bishop is launching a new Bianchi-inspired venue, restaurant and brewery called So Many Roads in a 15,000-some-square-foot area of the Yard, a massive development at West First Avenue and Santa Fe Drive. Bishop will be renting Bianchi's enormous collection of Dead memorabilia and posters for the place, and has recruited Bianchi to help decorate the new venue.
"The new place looks pretty fuckin’ cool," says Bianchi. "It’s like a museum. It’s got twenty-foot ceilings and has a huge billboard of The Mars Hotel, and all the posters I’ve always displayed in one big section."
"It’s going to be a venue: two sides, two stages, a brewing taste room," explains Bishop. "I’m going to put a pizza place in there. It’s going to be my own. I do have pizza experience. I’m going to do a brick oven, traditional Neapolitan, good, fresh ingredients. I’m going to do fresh pastas as well. Kind of basics. I want people to come there for the food and the music."
What kind of music? Jam bands, of course, and reggae...and maybe a little EDM, Bishop says.
The name of the new joint, So Many Roads, is a nod to the often turbulent journey of the Bianchis, as they ran clubs ranging from Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom, which the brothers sold in 2009, to several versions of Quixote's True Blue, Owlsey's Crazy Diamond and Owlsey's Golden Road, among others.
"There were so many locations and so many different things that happened," Bianchi recalls.
While he plans to continue to own and operate Quixote's True Blue, now at 2014 South University and the sole bar remaining in his stable, Bianchi says he's ready for a break. He's spent more than two dozen years working at his various venues, taking no more than thirty days off during that time.
"It’s set up so I don’t have to work anymore," Bianchi says. "I’ll still be around. I’ve got kids here and stuff like that. I won’t be a part of the bar except if [Bishop] wants to ask about trademarks and all that stuff and the history and all that stuff. My name will be in the history. It's a big deal. It's a good deal."
As he nails down the final details, Bishop is taking his role in preserving the Bianchi history very seriously.
"It’s a legacy," Bishop says. "That’s a lot of responsibility, in my opinion, to keep it going. Jay will always be around in that scene, doing what he’s doing. We’re getting him out of the limelight."