The Monkey Barrel Is Not Giving Up on Live Music

After closing the Monkey Barrel at 1611 Platte Street at the end of April (the building was slated to be demolished) owner Jimmy Nigg planned to move the bar to 4401 Tejon Street in Sunnyside, and hoped to have it up and running this summer. But his plans hit a snag when he wasn’t initially approved for a cabaret license in order to host live music at the new location.

Nigg says the Monkey Barrel is approved for a liquor license by the City of Denver, but the bar still needs approval from the State of Colorado before alcohol can be served. He’s hoping to start slinging drinks the weekend of September 9 (the same weekend as the Sunnyside Music Festival, across the street at Chaffee Park).

In the meantime, Nigg plans to start serving food next weekend. He’s teamed up with Tony Lonardo, son of Rosa and Nick Lonardo, who ran Carbone’s Italian Sausage Deli for nearly four decades until it closed four years ago. Nigg says Lonardo will be making some of the sandwiches that Carbone’s offered as takeout.

While Nigg is disappointed that he won’t be able to offer live music when the bar opens, he’s not giving up on getting a cabaret license. He was surprised that he didn’t get one initially, since there was a petition with 250 signatures from people who supported both the liquor and cabaret licenses and only 31 who didn't. At the city license hearing in June, Nigg says, the hearing officer of the Department of Excise and Licenses “decided there was a need and a desire for the liquor license to get approved but not for the live music."

“Everything pointed to us working out an agreement with the [Sunnyside] neighborhood association,” Nigg says, “because we hadn’t done that, and what we tried to do for the past two to three weeks is get an agreement made up that they would take our side, and then we felt if they were on our side we could probably get the director of Excise and Licenses to kind of disregard what the suggestion was and give us the license.

“We couldn’t come to an agreement with the neighborhood association, so what we decided to do was...[withdraw] our application for the cabaret license, because we have an opportunity to re-petition the neighborhood and get a cabaret license and basically just move forward with the liquor license.”

Nigg says the reason he withdrew the cabaret-license application and decided to reapply later (he’s hoping to get another hearing by the end of the year) was that he had so many people reach out to him in support of the live music.

“I had people calling me and e-mailing me from all over the neighborhood and local business owners,” Nigg says. “There’s such an overwhelming amount of support for us to get the live music approved that all of those e-mails and all of that support fell on deaf ears, because by the time the hearing was over…people were asking me, ‘How can I help?’ ‘Where can I send e-mails?' 'What can we do to show we want this in our neighborhood?’ By the time the hearing ended — had we known we had so many people to come out and support us, we would had the live music, hands down.”

Nigg thinks that reapplying for the cabaret license will give everyone who lives in the Sunnyside neighborhood another opportunity to have their voices heard.

“So we’re going to get everyone that supports us to sign this petition and come in when it’s time to vote at the next hearing to vote for live music,” Nigg says. “My slogan for the next three months I’m at the bar is, ‘Vote yes for live music.’ That’s what I’m going to be showing every patron when they come into my bar when they ask me, ‘What’s going on with live music?’ I’m going to explain to them what happened. We’ll be in a better position to prove, without a doubt, a need and desire.”

Ideally, Nigg says, he hopes to get the cabaret license near the end of the year, when the addition tot he building, which will nearly double the size of space, will be completed. 
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Jon Solomon writes about music and nightlife for Westword, where he's been the Clubs Editor since 2006.
Contact: Jon Solomon