"It's a gay pirate ship meets Land of the Lost with phallic and bird undertones, is how I'm describing it," says Lexi Healy of the fully immersive tiki bar she's working on with business partner Veronica Ramos. "We're gonna give Denver the tiki bar it deserves."
The two longtime industry vets opened their first solo venture, the Electric Cure, at 5350 West 25th Avenue in Edgewater last August. The eclectic tiki bar with rotating themes and a commitment to keeping things weird is packed with odds and ends, most of which were collected second-hand by Healy herself. The Electric Cure quickly gained a reputation as an irreverent escape, leaning into one particularly vocal community member's fears about it being Satanic with such events as its recent Zombie Jesus "Easter" Drag Show.
"We weren't planning on opening a second one," Healy admits. "Eventually we wanted to, but we didn't have any plans or anything." But then they ran across an ideal space in a haunted building.
Zach Cytryn and Nathan Stern are the Denver real estate agents who found the spot for Electric Cure. They are also behind Fuel & Iron, the Pueblo-inspired bar and restaurant that is set to open in the former home of Brass Tacks at 1526 Blake Street on April 28.
After visiting that space with Cytryn, Healy says she pitched the idea of putting a tiki bar in the mezzanine. "I just really like working with Zach and Nathan," she adds. "I never saw myself doing anything with a larger business, but if I would do it with anybody, it would be them." While Fuel & Iron is set to debut at the end of this month, the tiki bar, which will be called Hell or High Water, will come later.
Vault-drinking opportunities are also available through a crowd-funding campaign in which supporters can buy pins, VIP experiences and even a lap dance to help back the project.
Healy and Ramos have big ideas for the new space, despite its small size. The two plan to incorporate automated features like an octopus with moving tentacles and the Creature From the Black Lagoon coming out of a skull wall with the aid of such local artisans as Dan Nevin of Go Figure Woodworks and Stacie Barbarick, who is helping with prop design. Other ideas include a volcano wall, a thatch hut seating area, swings and captain's chairs.
You won't find any traditional tiki totems, however. "We don't do any tiki totems because we don't want to step on any other culture's toes, so we don't have masks and we don't have tiki mugs that are totems," Healy explains. "There are people in the tiki community that say if you don't have masks or totems, you're not tiki."
In response, Healy has commissioned a Las Vegas artist to make a "five-foot dick totem" for the new bar. "It's as tall as me," she notes.
As with the Electric Cure, Healy expects Hell or High Water to continue to evolve after it opens. "With both spaces, I don't think we'll ever be done," she concludes. "We'll just keep adding and changing."