After more than a year of wrangling with the City of Lakewood over zoning codes and a liquor license, spending countless hours remodeling the joint where he'd worked for years and then purchased, briefly opening and then closing again, Ken Morris can finally say that Antero Hall at Eck's Saloon is open. And if he has his way, the venue that most recently housed the Silver Spur Saloon, a country bar, and the hard-rock Eck's Saloon before that isn't going anywhere.
"It’s been a very harrowing and crazy ride," he told Westword on July 20. "But here we are."
While other music venues and bars offering live entertainment — from 3 Kings Tavern to Live@Jacks and Armida's — have shuttered their doors amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Morris has finally opened his, seven nights a week, with plans for music performances Thursdays through Sundays.
"I don’t want to take any joy in so many people not being around now, but we’re here," he says.
It's an unlikely success story, considering how many times Morris nearly gave up, as expenses piled high, licensing dates were postponed and permits were rejected. And then, when he was finally given a temporary liquor license in March, bars and restaurants were ordered closed just days later because of the coronavirus pandemic.
To keep money coming in through the COVID-19 closure, Morris turned the space into a screen-printing business, doing runs of shirts for bands, individuals and organizations. Even as he reopens the venue, he has no plans to stop printing.
"We’re cross-training everyone," Morris explains. "The cook knows how to bartend and print shirts and run lighting. I want people who are able to do whatever we need them to at the time."
Under the current guidelines, he can have between 75 and 100 people in the restaurant and bar at a time, he says. The audience must stay 25 feet from the stages, and there are about a dozen tables staged six feet apart. When people are not sitting at a table, they are required to wear masks.
"That's the cost of live music right now," Morris acknowledges.
But being able to present music is worth the price.
"I love this place to death," he says. "It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my lifetime. I'm stunned and humbled that we figured out how to get here."
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