Cafe Society

Tavern Downtown uncovers its colossal rooftop patio

"I don't worry about what they think, I worry about what I think," answers Frank Schultz when I ask what the owners of Lodo's Bar & Grill, located directly across the street from the new 9,500-square-foot rooftop patio that Schultz unveiled earlier today above the Tavern Downtown, say about what has to be the largest deck in Denver.

The Tavern Downtown is one of five taverns (and three nightclubs) canopied under Tavern Hospitality Group, the empire that Schultz runs with his mother and stepfather, Terry and Al Papay. "Expanding this patio has been in the works for two years, and we couldn't have picked a more beautiful day to open it," says Schultz, who won't divulge how much dough he spent on the renovation and expansion -- just that he "put a lot of money into it."

And it shows.

A stained concrete bar, with space for ninety stools, wraps around the stairwell; there's a perimeter walkway facing Coors Field for "people to get away from the bar crowd and just hang out," says Schultz; a huge gas fireplace flanks the south side of the deck; mister zones are strategically placed to ward off sweat; and concealed heaters glow below the bar overhang. "My main priority was to get people drinks fast, so while we increased the number of seats from 250 to 650, we also increased the number of bartenders we had from six to sixteen," continues Schultz. "I really believe in this property, I'm in it for the long haul and we were really smart about the layout, which took a few years to come to fruition, but it ended up being a really fun project because we got it right."

Schultz jokes that the tavern's location is a "nine iron between here and the home entrance to Coors Field," which sits directly across the street. "I can tell when someone hits a single, a double or a home run just by listening to the crowd noise," he boasts. "I don't even have to look at the TV; I get it right every time."

Schultz is hoping that he has as much success with his next two projects: Next year, he's opening Tavern Congress Park in the former Neighborhood Flix restaurant and theater space in the Lowenstein development on Colfax Avenue, and before that, Tavern Littleton at 2510 West Main Street, right across the street from Merle's, which already has a rooftop terrace -- not that Schultz has noticed. "I don't worry about them, I worry about me," he says.

The Tavern Congress Park will encompass an 85-seat restaurant and a 650-seat event center for private parties, concerts and weddings, while the "Littleton project will be similar to the Tavern Wash Park, which is one of our smaller taverns," says Schultz, who will begin construction on the Tavern Littleton in June. "We hope to open that tavern by December of this year and the Congress Park Tavern in early 2011."

In the meantime, there's plenty of sun to soak up from the rooftop of the Tavern Downtown, which opens at 10 a.m. Monday through Friday and at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.