Through a Glass, Darkly

Page 6 of 12

"This young man's death can have that as part of his legacy," Maust says. "It's not a fair trade. But it's better than simply mourning."

A First Fatality
Boulder has a license to chill.
By Jared Jacang Maher

The War Against Drunks has claimed its first casualty: Tulagi.

Last March, rumors began bubbling in the primordial ooze of the Boulder music scene that the long-vacant Tulagi building would soon be repackaged as the republic's newest Gap outlet. The mere thought of Tulagi being converted into an outpost for the top symbol of corporate retail shill was blasphemous -- a fucking outrage! After all, this space had kept university kids well-marinated in cheap beer and rock and roll since the '60s and served as a stepping stone for musicians like Miles Davis and Arlo Guthrie.

So for three glorious weeks, the legendary venue sputtered back to life with a campaign called Save the Tulagi, featuring a slate of local acts. It was a noble effort, even if it was short-lived -- and the Gap rumor completely fabricated.

"We really wanted to pay the bands and do the things you really should do as a venue," says Sam Estes, who does the booking management for the property, which is owned by Rockrimmon Real Estate. But Tulagi lost its liquor license after the previous tenants, confronted with $18,000 in back sales taxes, bailed out of the space in 2003, and it was difficult to bring in enough crowds for all-ages (read: booze-free) events. "You know -- when you're only charging five bucks a ticket, and you're trying to get a very niche demographic that would rather go to a party or something like that," he explains.

It doesn't take an economics major to know that on a Friday night, the Hill's traditional demographic is looking to invest in only one thing: beer. Buckets of beautiful beer. Although the tavern has seen many incarnations in its storied, fifty-year existence -- who remembers when it was a disco club? -- Tulagi was always a reliable drinking buddy. But times change. People grow up. They get good jobs and nice cars. They give birth to kids and stock portfolios and start listening to smooth jazz. And then they buy houses in a neighborhood that's been populated by 22-year-old college students for the last forty years and bitch about how their community is too noisy and filled with house parties.

Over the past few years, the University Hill Neighborhood Association has done a tremendous job of putting bitching to well-organized action by arming the angry and middle-aged with reasons to blame students for garbage, noise, over-occupancy and drinking -- the root of all evils. Recently, a few dozen members of the group came out in force against a proposal by Pete Turner, owner of Illegal Pete's, to pour a million bucks into the Tulagi building to create a two-level, upscale Cuban restaurant called Atrevido, with a rooftop patio and live music and dancing in the back. After decades of hard partying, the space certainly needs a major overhaul. The dingy interior reeks of sour beer. The fish tank is gone, as is the sound-and-lighting system, and the railings are caked with grime and coming loose.

"Tulagi had a lot of good music through the years," says Rockrimmon's Zane Blackmer. "It also had drunken brawls. We need some nicer quality stores and restaurants up here, because it's not just the students who live in Boulder."

This may be the one point on which everyone agrees. Boulder has spent tens of thousands of dollars on marketing studies which concluded that nine pizza and sub-sandwich shops within a two-block stretch don't make for the most economically diverse district. Blackmer was looking for an investor with a high-end concept that would bring a different demographic to 13th Street rather than the usual shot-gulping frat boys. That's what he thought he had with Turner, who'd signed a ten-year lease for the building.

But the neighborhood group was skeptical, as was Boulder's planning board, which was eyeballing a September 28 letter from University of Colorado chancellor Richard Byyny to the city's Beverages Licensing Authority, urging a moratorium on any new liquor licenses near campus. According to David Miller, who sits on the executive board of the neighborhood group, residents were concerned that this latest proposal for Tulagi would create additional parking, crime, noise and drunkenness. And the city agreed, turning down Turner's proposal.

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