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Reader: The Campus Lounge Can't Get a Break
Westword

Reader: The Campus Lounge Can't Get a Break

Over the weekend of July 4, this message appeared on the Campus Lounge website: "Campus Lounge has closed for business. We appreciate your support along the way."

That marked the third time the Campus had gone out of business in as many years. University of Denver alum Jim Wiste had taken over a longtime neighborhood bar in 1976; a Pioneer hockey player, he put the emphasis on sports, as well as cheap steaks and beer. In 2016, on its fortieth anniversary, he sold the place (building included) to Dan Landes and Charlie Woolley, who did a major renovation of the space with a modern twist that didn't work for the neighborhood. In October 2018, Dan and Jeff Nickless, who had roots on the block, took over the restaurant/bar and returned the Campus Lounge to its sports-bar roots.

But it wasn't enough. Could anything work in this spot at 701 South University? Readers have plenty of thoughts. Says Kelly:

This place can't get a break? A good operator would kill in that location.

Adds Kevin: 

Never should have played with it. When the old owners sold, the new ones should have just transitioned to the way it was. It'll work if people make it a nice neighborhood tavern again.

Notes Alex: 

No one fell off the barstools after the reno.

Says Rick:

 Tried to support the last iteration, couldn’t find a place to park. Ever.

Explains Jimmy: 

The two reasons the Campus closed are high rent and high labor. When Jim Wiste owned the bar, he also owned the building. He was able to keep prices reasonable enough to have a steady clientele, and when the new owners stepped in they weren’t in a position to do so. No more $6 pitchers of Coors Light. No more $9.95 steak dinners. Moving forward it shouldn’t be all about the cheap food and drinks, but that WAS the clientele. Only way this place makes it back to the glory days is if the landlord is willing to give the new tenants a generous under market discount on rent. Maybe then, and only then, could the new bar owners lure back the regular drinkers who packed the place from lunch until happy hour, all of whom have since moved on to surrounding bars.

Responds Dutch: 

I respectfully disagree. The new generation of kids don’t drink like the previous ones used to. I wish we could resurrect places like the old Campus Lounge and Rodney’s, but you need drinkers seven nights a week. Weekend warriors don’t pay the bills anymore. Sad sad sad. I try to do my part. I don’t see a sweetheart rent deal here, but I hope you’re right and I’m wrong. If I’m wrong. I will see you there, doing my part!

Suggests Shonna: 

A project for Bar Rescue.

Replies John: 

Dumbest fucking show involving the industry on TV and no one who’s been in the industry more than fifteen minutes takes it seriously.

Concludes Shonna: 

So what? So is the Apprentice, and now the dumbest fucking show is in the White House.

But back to the Campus:

Reader: The Campus Lounge Can't Get a Break (4)
Westword

"Campus Lounge Will Soon Be Back in Session"

Reader: The Campus Lounge Can't Get a Break (2)
Westword

"Back to School With the Campus Lounge"

Reader: The Campus Lounge Can't Get a Break (3)
Westword


"Campus Lounge Closes for the Third Time in Three Years"

The first bar to occupy this corner was the Bel-Aire, which opened in 1946; three years later, it turned into the Campus Lounge. Wiste bought the place from Bill and Joe White in 1976 and proceeded to turn it into a real neighborhood hangout. Even as that neighborhood changed, with scrape-offs of once-modest bungalows to the east and west, the Campus remained a real locals' joint.

But while locals didn't appreciate the hip update of the Campus initiated by Landes and Woolley, they weren't any fonder of the sports bar redo executed by the Nickless team. Both iterations closed in under a year.

Neighbors might not have been hot on either iteration, but the Bonnie Brae neighborhood remains hotter than ever. What would you like to see in the Campus Lounge space? Post a comment or email cafe@westword.com.

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