In retrospect, Dean Maus isn't sure that posting a "business for sale" sign on the bulletin board outside the Denver Stockyard Saloon
before the 2023 National Western Stock Show
started was such a good idea. "My wife was really surprised when she saw that sign," he recalls. "She wasn't very happy."
After all, Maus has run the bar in the historic Livestock Exchange Building
for twenty years, ever since a regular at his Willy's Wings in Evergreen suggested that they buy the place, a longtime watering hole that had been dark for a year, after decades of business as the Stockyards Inn, Doc's (where a Westword Christmas party almost set the place on fire
), the Old West Tavern and other venues lost to time. That fall, they did just that and reopened the bar, but the partner was out by January, when Maus started working the sixteen-hour days that come with owning the only independent bar on the National Western campus during the Stock Show.
The Stockyard Saloon occupies a building dating to 1916, ten years after the National Western Stock Show started.
But late last year, he was sick of the staffing problems intrinsic to owning any bar these days — "I got tired of nobody wanting to work anymore," he says — and looking ahead to more sixteen-hour days when the Stock Show returned, when he was likely to be the bartender who would get any inquiries regarding that "for sale" sign. And he knew that after the Stock Show closes on January 22, some changes were in store for the Livestock Exchange, a three-building complex at 4710 National Western Drive purchased by the city for $11.5 million
four years ago from a private owner, then sold in 2020 to a partnership
that includes EXDO Development, Elevation Development Group, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, and the nonprofit National Western Center Authority.
He's definitely had some interest in the deal, which includes a lease with several years left to go on his space in the circa 1919 structure, though a few inquiries came from customers who'd like him to stay on and manage the place. "I tell them I'll do it one month a year for the Stock Show, or eleven months a year for everything else, but not both," he says. And there's another caveat: "If I was to sell it, I want to sell it to someone in this kind of crowd."
Which is a rowdy crowd of ranchers and cowboys and fans of ranchers and cowboys, who'd keep the down-home character of the place, which ranked in the most recent "Drink Here
," our list of the 100 bars in metro Denver that we can't live without.
But we'll have to for a week after the Stock Show, when Maus always closes to give the place a deep cleaning, then goes back to his regular Monday through Friday hours, rather than the seven-day, 10 a.m. until 2 a.m. Stock Show schedule. He says the sign is coming down after the show, too, though he still might entertain offers. "I don't care if I sell it or not," he says. "I don't need to sell it because I need the money. But if I do sell it, it has to be the right person...someone who keeps the history."
And this building has lots of that. "And a lot of stories," Maus promises. "But never to share."