Music News

The Oriental Theater has new owners and a new community mission

The management of the Oriental Theater (4335 West 44th Avenue) has changed hands. The owners of 3 Kings Tavern, who'd operated the historic 700-person venue for the past year, signed a deal last week with Absolutely Huge Entertainment, which will take over the place. Headed by Anna Muniz, who has more than twenty years' experience in the bar and entertainment industry, the Absolutely Huge group includes Joe Hendricks, who ran the Fallen Warehouse for three years, Forth Yeer guitarist Jerry Cass, Scott LaBarbera, and Brad Sandler, owner of the Green Door Living real estate company, who'd previously partnered with LaBarbera at the Oriental.

"Our mission is to be the greatest community-oriented venue on the planet," Muniz proclaims. "We're going to donate proceeds from a minimum of one show a month to a local charity. We're going to have kids' shows and family shows, anything anyone wants to put in there. We just want to produce a venue that everyone can be a part of, no matter who they are."

And by "everyone," Muniz really means everyone. Absolutely Huge plans to bring in everything from salsa to blues acts to bigger local bands.

"We kind of have similar visions of what I was doing," explains LaBarbera, who operated the Oriental from 2005 to 2009. "Keeping a diverse music schedule, a neighborhood theme and family-oriented. Run it the way I was doing it before, but with a little more help."

But first, Absolutely Huge plans to do some cosmetic work on the venue, then get started on more major upgrades after they get the okay of George Sager, who's owned the Oriental for years. (He also owned the Gothic back in the '80s.) "We're going to go revive that place and make her beautiful again," Muniz says, adding that they'll keep her beautiful, too: "We will have the cleanest bathroom in Denver or not open the door."

Club scout: The space at 1612 East 17th Avenue that was (very briefly) Jazzmatazz is slated to reopen on Friday, October 22, as Next Door. That's because it's right next door to Limón, and Will Olson, one of the bar's owners, says that Rufus Burdett, Limón's head chef, is planning a menu for Next Door, a fairly simple roster of salads, soups, sandwiches, housemade sausages and sliders (pulled pork, beef and duck confit). But while that menu won't be ready for a while, the bar will start pouring as soon as Next Door's door opens, with a daily happy hour from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. featuring $4 Jägermeisters and $3 house wine, well drinks and drafts. Hospital employees will always get a 10 percent discount, and Van Gogh Blue Martinis are just $6 at all hours.

Bikinis Bar & Grill has moved into the former University Sports Grill at 2442 South University Boulevard, near the University of Denver campus. While the sign may not yet be up, the uniforms should clue customers to the name of the place: Female servers will be sporting bikini tops and either booty shorts, Daisy Dukes or swimsuit bottoms from happy hour until close, when they'll also be serving a lot of Colorado brews and locally made sausages. They'll wear a little more when the joint opens at 6 a.m., when it will serve breakfast burritos and a more extensive breakfast menu on weekends to early-rising college students — or those on their way home after a night on the town.

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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