Is LoDo's party scene dying?
The answer appears to be yes, at least when you consider that Lodo's Bar & Grill, an entrenched party destination, has become irrelevant in its namesake neighborhood. Earlier this year, the 25-year-old bar and grill at 1946 Market Street was purchased by MSCV Holdings, a joint venture of Kenneth Monfort, Jason Marcotte and Matt Runyon. Their plan is to close LoDo's next spring and begin construction on Dierks Bentley's Whiskey Row, a link in the country-rock star's chain of breastaurants that already has four locations in Nashville and the Phoenix suburbs.
While 25 years is a pretty good run for any watering hole, the pack-em-in-and-get-em-drunk business model has possibly run its course downtown, so the changeover to Whiskey Row seems more like a step backward in time than a step forward. In fact, even the company's own statement reads as if it was taken from the days when Coors Field had just opened: "Whiskey Row will serve as the catalyst that transforms this area into [a] world-class Ballpark district," MSCV Holdings proclaims.
Bars touting scantily clad servers and bartenders as the main attraction aren't as popular as they once were; while Coyote Ugly is somehow still hanging on at Denver Pavilions, the space that once held the Tilted Kilt is now vacant, Hooters has been relegated to the suburbs (the Colorado Boulevard outpost closed years ago), and Twin Peaks feels like a forgotten relic.
Add to that the fact that quite a few other celebrity name-brand establishments have failed in Denver, among them Toby Keith's I Love This Bar, Guy Harvey's Perfect Spot Bar & Grille and Charlie Palmer's District Tavern.
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The new ownership group seems certain that Whiskey Row is the right fit for LoDo, even in an era when independent, locally owned restaurants hold more cachet with Denver diners than slick corporate chains, and when the idea that female hospitality employees must dress to please and put up with unwanted advances to make bigger tips feels more than a little icky.
In Bentley's summer smash, "Different for Girls," the star writes: "She don't have the luxury to let herself go." Of course she don't (sorry, doesn't), if the expectation is that she has to show up for work at Whiskey Row looking sexy enough to get ogled and catcalled. There's also the double standard that prohibits guests from wearing "torn or cutoff clothing" while requiring female employees to wear Daisy Duke shorts.
The newest Whiskey Row will expand the original LoDo's footprint, taking over a parking lot next door and upgrading the facade and second-floor rooftop as well as making improvements to the former Mattie's House of Mirrors building at 1942 Market Street (which currently serves as home to Neon Baby, and started life as a Victorian brothel). The LoDo neighborhood has experienced other recent upheavals, with the Tavern Downtown and Cowboy Lounge closing after their building was sold, and the twenty-year-old Cook Street School of Culinary Arts moving out of the area and into the Golden Triangle.
MSCV Holdings also purchased the two LoDo's Bar & Grill outposts in Westminster and Highlands Ranch, but plans to keep them operating as is. So after next spring, if you want the full LoDo's experience, you'll have to look beyond LoDo to get it.