The owners behind the the bar are Niya Gingerich and her husband, Grant, who also own the El Camino Tavern in Highland. Both have been in the bar and restaurant business for years, and Gingerich's grandmother even owned a bar in Washington state, so it seems to run in the family. The Gingeriches took over the space and even bought the liquor license from the landlord when the Music Bar left. (There were rumors that it would rebuild elsewhere, but nothing ever materialized.)
I was a frequent visitor of the Music Bar, a karaoke-all-the-time dive, and have continued to stop by occasionally in the Local 46 era. A friend of a friend used to bartend there, and it's still a good spot for karaoke, but these days the singing only goes down on Thursday nights. One of those Thursday nights found me there with a group of friends that included Jamie Laurie of the Flobots. We coerced him into doing his own song, "Handlebars," which you may remember as a big hit in the mid-2000s (you know, the one that goes, "I can ride my bike with no handlebars, no handlebars, no handlebars..."). When the other patrons seated around the karaoke stage commented on how close he sounded to the "real" song, we blew their minds by telling them that he was the original singer. You could pretty much see their brains exploding.
Some friends and I recently found ourselves at Local 46 — this time not to mess with our fellow karaoke singers, but just to grab drinks on a Friday night. The crowd wasn't quite wall-to-wall, but close; everyone was there to see the Grown A$$ Man Band, a four-piece jazz and blues ensemble commonly seen on stage at Local 46 and the Appaloosa Grill downtown. The highlight of the performance was either the musician who played a conch shell as an instrument, or the older hippie-looking couples dancing in front of the stage. My friends and I joined in, dancing along for a little while before heading out to the patio.
Back inside, the crowd was still jiggling and swing-dancing and doing the twist or whatever else they felt like doing as the band played on. We danced a little ourselves, then decided to try to cram four people into a photo booth made from an old phone booth — a fun endeavor, even if the we didn't all quite make it into the resulting photos.
Afternoons are surprisingly busy, too; a recent Wednesday found all the bar seats full, primarily with thirty-something women and a couple of older guys who were shooting pool across the room. Niya tells me she lives nearby and is the president of the Tennyson Berkeley Business Association, so the bar is involved in most neighborhood events. During the Culture Walk on Tennyson on the first Friday of every month, Local 46 hosts wine tastings and opens new art exhibits, displayed on the walls of the bar. Neighborhood school fundraisers like the Totally Tennyson block party and the EdFest cornhole tournament benefit Edison Elementary. Coming up on July 8 is the Berkeley Beer and Spirits Mini-Fest, with tasters of beer, wine and spirits, as well as food and live entertainment, an event that always coincides with the quarterly Horseshoe Market arts-and-crafts fair across the street in the Olinger's parking lot.
And as summer winds down, Local 46 makes the best of its biergarten with a kid-friendly and not-full-of-tourists Oktoberfest celebration in September, when the crew offers all the stein hoisting, live music and beer drinking you can handle without having to park downtown and get pushed off the sidewalk by lederhosen-wearing herds of bros. For weekly action, Monday nights bring an open-stage jam full of great local talent hosted by Denver hat aficionado and musician Larry Nix.
My chat with Niya, on a pleasant afternoon on the sunny patio full of folk art and partitions of made of rustic wood and steel elements, was interrupted as the older pool-playing gentlemen approached us, so I asked them what they liked about the bar, and aside from the free pool, they said it was all about meeting and connecting with new people. One of the men twisted and shuffled to the muted strains of "Tequila" coming through the outdoor speakers, pausing only to tell us to make this "the best first day of the rest of our lives." Niya, prompted by the encounter, explains that the bar continues to draw an eclectic mix as the neighborhood changes. Old-timers who grew up on the Northside, families with kids, musicians, restaurant industry folks and upscale newcomers living in the new condos surrounding the bar all come in to relax over drinks.
Whatever change comes to Berkeley and north Denver over the years, the Gingeriches and their staff at Local 46 are committed to welcoming all of the neighbors, no matter where they come from. So if you visit, get ready to meet new friends — and maybe even have the best first day of the rest of your life.