Jim Wiste, owner of the Campus Lounge at South University Boulevard and Exposition Avenue, is retiring after forty years and selling his bar. "I'm ready to just be a customer," he explains.
Wiste is a University of Denver alumnus and former professional hockey player whose bar — a neighborhood favorite with a staunch cadre of regulars — is jam-packed with hockey memorabilia, two large aquariums and rows of vintage booths. He opened it as a place where DU alums and other fans of sports and good neighborhood bars could hang out, and it's been just that for forty years. But that run will end this weekend. While the menu offerings of Mexican fare, burgers and sandwiches will likely dwindle before the place closes on Sunday, September 25, drinks will continue to be poured until last call.
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As word of the sale leaked out yesterday, customers gathered and shared drinks with off-duty bartenders; all were on a first-name basis with one another. And stories started spilling. One regular at the bar explained that he was born and raised in the neighborhood, got his first job as a dishwasher at the Campus Lounge when he was twelve, and considers Wiste to be a second father.
Although the Campus Lounge marked its fortieth anniversary this summer, it's a relative newcomer on the block. The Bonnie Brae Lounge was founded by the Dire family in 1934, and the Saucy Noodle celebrated its fiftieth birthday two years ago (the granddaughter of founder Sam Badis runs it today).
But for Wiste, it was time to let go. And who is buying the Campus? Wiste confirms that he's selling "to the owner of City, O' City." That would be Daniel Landes, an author/arts enthusiast/Renaissance man who also founded WaterCourse Foods, which he sold last year to an employee. (We are awaiting confirmation — and more details — from Landes.) But while City, O' City is vegetarian, Wiste doesn't think that the Campus Lounge will be going veggie.
Long live the Campus Lounge. Long live great neighborhood bars..