After looking into empty restaurant spaces in several Denver neighborhoods, Ballen found out that Gary Lee's Motor Club & Grub, vacant since last fall at 176 South Broadway, was available — and he knew it was the right fit. The reclaimed mechanic's garage (similar to the renovated gas station of the original Cochino) made sense thematically, the spacious patio would guarantee a great spot for sipping margaritas — and there was also a personal connection.
The Cochino owner says he knew Gary Lee Bomar — the rockabilly founder of Gary Lee's who passed away in 2015 — since at least the late ’80s, when the two were both in their early twenties. So Ballen felt that somehow fate had intervened to bring the vacancy to his attention at just the right time.
Cochino will also be taking over a full cabaret license from Gary Lee's, so Ballen says live music is a possibility. But otherwise, he says to expect the same dedication to mezcal and tequila at the bar, as well as a menu of tacos and other street eats inspired by Mexico City.
Ballen hopes to have Cochino Taco 2.0 open sometime this spring, adding a vibrant destination to a stretch of South Broadway that's already home to Illegal Pete's, Atomic Cowboy, Sobo 151, Adrift and the Skylark Lounge.