"It's old-school meets new-school," says Nick Moscia, marketing manager for Bar 404, which opened December 15 at 404 Broadway.
The building is definitely old-school. Built in 1929, it opened as a bar the day after Prohibition ended in 1933. In 1951, it was purchased by then-underaged Jerry Feld, who had to use his uncle's name on the liquor license. For over sixty years
, Feld's Club 404 was one of Denver's go-to watering holes. But he sold the bar in 2012, and two years later, just before what would have been his 83rd birthday, Feld passed away
The building was briefly Denver Wheel Club 404, a bicycle-themed bar, then Brendan's Pub. New owners Kevin Geraghty and Brian Keller remodeled the place and reopened it as Rory's Tavern
in 2017. But the bar was already struggling when COVID-19 hit, and in August 2020, it shut down for good
"I never met Kevin," says new co-owner Kerry O'Brien, who is bringing live music and flowing drinks back to the spot with his business partner, Marty Varela. "I just heard he was a really great guy. He really wanted to do a lot with the place — he put a lot of money into it. But my opinion is just that the people wanted it to be the neighborhood bar."
O'Brien and Moscia met at O'Brien's former establishment, Inga's Alpine Tavern in Glendale, where Moscia, who is a marketing consultant for various businesses, was a regular. O'Brien owned Inga's with Varela and a third business partner, Mary Mcknabb; when Moscia told them about the former Rory's being available, O'Brien and Varela sold their part of Inga's to Mcknabb and turned their attention to 404 Broadway.
The bar and lounge half of Bar 404 has a fresh coat of paint.
The new owners have been talking to a lot of people in the neighborhood as they've worked to bring the nearly century-old building up to date, even holding meetings of the Broadway Merchants Association in the space as they connect with other business owners in the area. "There's definitely been a welcoming vibe already, from everyone on the street," Moscia says.
While much of the work was behind the scenes, there have been some cosmetic changes, like a new coat of paint and new lights. "We didn't want to change too much, but we also needed to change," O'Brien explains. "We wanted to give it a clean feel."
"We want the original 404 vibe in here," Moscia adds.
The place continues to be a work in progress. The classic sign out front still needs to be painted. Inside, one half of the space holds a bar and lounge, while the other has a small stage that will be expanded. An upgraded sound system has been installed, and a new PA system is in the works, too.
Live music and other events will be a big part of Bar 404, inspired in part by O'Brien's longtime passion for the music industry: In his former career with British Airways, he became the go-to guy for overseeing the transportation of band gear. That path led him to unexpected connections, including a friendship with Ozzy, Sharon and the rest of the Osbourne family. "Ozzy was my idol when I was a kid growing up, and I went to a bunch of shows [through British Airways] and got really tight with his people," O'Brien remembers. "Next thing I know, Sharon has my number."
The Osbournes even attended O'Brien's wedding in 2000, and he appeared on two episodes of the family's MTV reality show, The Osbournes
. "That was my claim to fame," O'Brien adds. He's got a stock of rock memorabilia from that era of his life, and plans to display some at Bar 404.
The "new-school" side of Bar 404 will get an expanded stage for live music and other events.
Moscia says the bar plans to partner with nonprofits — especially music-related ones like Punk Rock Saves Lives
— for specials and events to raise money and give back.
The bar is open seven days a week, offering happy-hour specials every day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. There's a full menu available all day, with such items as fried pickles, a variety of loaded fries, and 420 Phish and Chips made with a Sweetwater 420 ale beer batter. Delivery through apps like Uber Eats and Grubhub will be offered soon, as well. O'Brien says that food delivery helped get Inga's through the pandemic, and he hopes Bar 404 will become known as a go-to for dependable food, too.
The cocktail menu is still being finalized but will include classics like an Old Fashioned along with a "New Fashioned" made with vanilla Crown Royal. Weekend brunch, including Bloody Marys and bottomless mimosas, will be added, as will late-night eats.
On its first night, the bar attracted a crowd of both old-timers and younger patrons. "I think we're gonna attract everybody from 21 to 75," Moscia says.
A free New Year's Eve party with entertainment is being planned, and a grand-opening celebration is set for January 14. But in the meantime, Bar 404 is ready to pour you a cold beer.