Music News

Lion's Lair Closes Voluntarily: "I Just Think It's the Right Thing to Do"

John Doe plays the Lion's Lair in 2007.
John Doe plays the Lion's Lair in 2007. Jon Solomon
Doug Kauffman, a legend among Denver concert promoters and the owner of the Lion's Lair, has decided to temporarily shutter his 105-capacity East Colfax Avenue dive bar and venue over concerns about coronavirus.

With schools, libraries and big venues shutting down, and mounting evidence that the best way to avoid spreading the virus is through social distancing, he thought the closure just made good sense.

"We made the call right away," he says. "It shouldn't be a hard one to make, considering how dire the situation is."

Kauffman was moved in part by Governor Jared Polis, who announced earlier on March 13 that he was banning 250-plus capacity events statewide.

"I like the governor's response," Kauffman notes. "It was very aggressive and very proactive."

Kauffman's decision came in the wake of Live Nation and AEG Presents canceling all big tours through March. The governor's ban on 250-plus events will effectively shut down the Mission Ballroom, the Bluebird Theater, the Gothic Theatre, the Ogden Theatre, 1STBANK Center and more.

The hi-dive, one of Denver's best rock bars, plans to move forward with its weekend slate of concerts.

"Shows for this weekend are on," the venue posted in a statement. "All the bands want to play. Our staff wants to work."

Then on Monday, March 16, the staff plans to assess the next steps forward.

"If you are feeling even slightly ill, please do not attend these shows," implores the hi-dive. "If you do attend, remember to practice good hygiene, wash them hands, cover your coughs and sneezes, give folks ample space, and be kind, courteous, and understanding. Our staff will do the same, along with paying extra attention to the cleanliness of the club as we get through this."

If the venue were to temporarily close, owner Curtis Wallach says that the hi-dive's future would be uncertain.

"At this point, we have no idea what the time span of this hypothetical closure would look like," he says. "Could we survive a lengthy closure (like, more than a couple months) without some major financial assistance? Very likely not."

Larimer Lounge, Lost Lake and Globe Hall, all independently owned by AEG talent buyer Scott Campbell that fall under the 250-capacity limit set by Polis, are open for concerts March 14. On a Facebook event announcement for Larimer Lounge, headliner Monk Gyatso has written, "LET'S GET SPICY! WASH YOUR HANDS!!"

Campbell was not available to comment on this story. 

Kauffman hopes that smaller venues will close their doors even if they aren't ordered to do so, simply to slow down the spread of coronavirus.

"It will get worse before it gets better," he says. "I just think it's the right thing to do."
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris

Latest Stories