While he probably won’t be playing at sea in the near future, he’ll have more time to focus on his new project, the Saguache Hotel, a 110-year-old building which he recently bought and will renovate over the next two years.
Last summer, Hackbarth visited Saguache, a San Luis Valley town with a population of 450 people about three hours south of Denver. He had planned to look at a rustic cabin that was for sale, thinking it would be a nice long-term rental investment. But as he wandered the town’s Main Street, he saw that the hotel, which had been vacant for three decades, was for sale.
“I just knew I was getting it,” Hackbarth says. “I loved it. It was just such a cool building, and it had such presence and character. It was just like this ghost sitting there, just waiting for somebody. I definitely hadn't even ever thought about anything like this. And when I first saw the building, I didn't think there was any way that I could make it happen.”
Instead of getting the cabin, Hackbarth bought the hotel last November, funding the project with his life savings, loans, and grants from History Colorado and the State Historical Fund. He’s also started a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for renovation costs. Over the next two years, Hackbarth will completely overhaul the building. With his father, Charlie Hackbarth, he will pretty much do everything himself besides electrical, heating and plumbing.
There will be live music, a coffee shop and a cocktail lounge on the hotel's main floor. Hackbarth also plans to host concerts on the nearby outdoor lot.
“My primary focus, and part of why I see so much potential in this building, is because it's just absolutely set up for live music,” Hackbarth says. “I'm doing a lobby coffee shop here, and I'd love to have just a little corner stage there to have some singer-songwriters or classical guitarists.”
Hackbarth, who attended the Aspen Music School before graduating from the University of Colorado Boulder with a degree in classical guitar performance, says the bar will also have a stage for indoor concerts and piano-bar music — the kind he played on cruise ships.
For the outdoor concerts, Hackbarth says he’ll turn the adjacent lot into a beer-garden-style venue with a big stage, some gas fireplaces and little shelters people can sit under. He’d like to eventually hold an annual festival highlighting regional acts.
“There's so much great music in the state and in the surrounding area,” Hackbarth says. “We'll start with that and just try to be consistent, try to have music going often enough that people get used to looking to the hotel as their source in the Valley for live music. And then anybody who wants to escape from the Front Range for a long weekend or anybody traveling through can.”
Hackbarth has been living at the hotel, and he’s set up a small recording studio to work on a new album that he plans to release next year.
Saguache is about halfway from Denver to Durango on U.S. Route 285, and the Great Sand Dunes, Monarch Ski Area and Salida are all within an hour's drive, so the town gets its share of visitors. Hackbarth says there’s a guy who goes by the name of Cowboy Dave who sits in the park across the street from the hotel and says about a hundred people a week who come off the highway to see what’s happening in the little town.
“We just really need to give people a reason to get off 285, take a left and come down four blocks and see what we have,” Hackbarth says. Downtown Saguache is only a couple blocks in the business district, but we've got three or four art galleries, which are really cool, a little organic market, a nice diner, and a new pizza pub.”
A few years ago, the downtown district got a grant to redo all the sidewalks and install new lampposts on Main Street. “Main Street looks beautiful,” Hackbarth says. “The businesses here are awesome. There are a lot of creative people here. ... The hotel is just sort of the last piece in this little puzzle.”
Next May, Hackbarth plans to open the second floor and sixteen rooms, some of which will have full kitchens that guests can use for extended stays, as well as five hostel-style rooms with a shared bathroom. There will also be two ADA-compliant rooms on the main floor. The grand opening is slated for June 2022. Follow Hackbarth's progress on Instagram, Facebook and the hotel's website. He will document the construction and host acoustic music from inside the building as the transformation takes place.