The 15th Street Tavern is still a legend in this town, even though the downtown bar/club closed three years ago. And ever since, Mykel Martinez has been trying to resurrect it. He was going to open a place on Park Avenue West, but his liquor license application was denied; then he got in a nasty motorcycle accident just as he was closing in on a space on South Broadway.
Now Martinez and Kris Sieger, another former 15th Street Tavern owner, are teaming up with 3 Kings Tavern owner Jim Norris to take over the former home of the Triangle, at 2036 Broadway. The trio plans to reopen the joint as The Rockaway Tavern on July 23. "I guess this could kind of be a resurrection, but it's not really," Martinez says. "The places Jim and I have owned before, we've walked into them as operating the bars -- but this is ours. We're gutting it. We're putting our floor plan down. It's our ideas. It's our baby."
They're renovating the spot right now; it's been vacant for several years. Martinez says they'll knock out some of the bricks in the front wall to make way for garage-door windows, put in a stage and redo the basement, which was legendary in the gay community. The bar first opened in 1951 as the Triangle Lounge, and it became a gay bar twenty years later. "Anybody in town who's gay will have a story about this place," Norris says. "I know in the '70s, the guys I've talked to said, 'When you came in here, there was a bare lightbulb over the bar and everything was dark. You didn't look around.'"
When you look around the remodeled club, it will have a 3 Kings-meets-15th St. vibe, Martinez says, and the partners plan to book the sorts of local acts that have played both venues, as well as some national acts. "There's plenty of room in Denver for this kind of stuff," Norris adds. "It just makes Denver a better stop. Every band can come to Denver now. Anybody on tour. Lots of people are getting missed getting booked because...who wants to play Aurora, ever?"
Norris has experience in just about every aspect of running a club -- except as a musician. "To me, that's the mystery part," he says. "I know all about retail. I know all about promoting and every single part but the being-a-musician part."
That's where Martinez, the guitarist for Black Lamb and Grease Machine, comes in. "One of our main focuses is going to be treating the bands really well and paying them like they should be," Martinez says, "since they're the ones that bring the people in."
Club scout: Look for the Oak Tavern (1416 Market Street) to start bringing in live music on a weekly basis. The club, which opened almost a year ago in the former Monarck space, also just kicked off a late-night happy hour that runs from 11 p.m. to close every night of the week except Thursdays, when ladies drink free. Happy-hour specials include $3 wells, $2 PBRs, $3 seasonal drinks and $25 Absolut pitchers.
Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill is slated to open in the former Borders Books and Music space at 8230
Northfield Boulevard in Northfield Stapleton sometime this summer. Named after Keith's country hit "I Love This Bar," the 22,000-square-foot restaurant, located across from Bass Pro Shops and near the Improv, will seat 650 people and feature live music and dancing.