Cafe Society

The Monkey Barrel and Syntax: Physic Opera will soon raise the bar

Eating won't be the only entertainment at some new spots opening in Denver. As our Backbeat blog reports, two bars opening in the coming months will offer not just food and drinks, but live shows -- and that's music to our ears. The Monkey Barrel will open on Platte Street in just a few weeks; Syntax: Physic Opera will raise the curtain on South Broadway later this fall. See also: - The Monkey Barrel set to open at 1611 Platte Street - Syntax: Physic Opera slated to open at 554 South Broadway - Rock-A-Billies brings rockabilly to Arvada Jimmy Nigg, who opened Rock-A-Billies in Arvada in 2010 and a second location in Greenwood Village last year, is hard at work on the Monkey Barrel, a bar and live music venue at 1611 Platte Street, in the former home of Salvagetti Bicycles -- right across the street from Colt & Gray and in the heart of a hot restaurant neighborhood. "More often than not, bar owners are walking into a situation where someone else has tried and failed in the same space, and it can be a real risk," Nigg tells Backbeat's Jon Solomon. "I've learned through experience that you have to make the key fit the lock, and the bar fit the neighborhood. I believe I have done that here."

Nigg has already built a bar in the space and added a patio; he's now working on a new sound system. That system should get its first workout on Thursday, September 5, when the Monkey Barrel will host a show with the Living Deads.

Another hot neighborhood, South Broadway, will get an unusual addition this fall when Jonathan Bitz opens Syntax: Physic Opera, a music venue, eatery and art bar, in the former home of the Bar (and the Atrium before that) at 554 South Broadway. Bitz, who'd been the booker at the Meadowlark and loves the supper-club concept, plans to host jazz acts early in the evening and have other programming later in the night.

And the food? Bitz, who's been working on a novel about the first seven days of Denver, plans to offer small plates that play off what was being eaten in Denver during the mid-nineteenth century. "An experience is what I want folks to have," he explains, "a full head and heart, not a bloated gut."

As Bitz tells Solomon, "I'm really passionate about that time period, so that's what we're kind of riffing off of at the base entirely. Physic Opera is sort of a Latin phrase that the insiders would call a 'medicine show.' The idea is that is a medicine show -- that everything is medicine, from the food to the drinks to the art to the music to the conversation, hopefully."

But first, he'll update the space, building a new bar and renovating the stage and bathrooms. Look for Syntax: Physic Opera to open in November.