The backside of theBuffalo Restaurant & Bar
looks pretty appealing when you're stuck in I-70 traffic by Idaho Springs. But soon that view will be even better: The owners closed the place at the end of service Sunday for a five-month renovation of the building, which got its start in 1906 as John Rohner's Bar and Billiards.
Since the Buffalo is in a historic district in the old mining town, the plan is to keep some of the turn-of-the-last-century feel, says manager Dan Ebert, who was already there when Sue and the late Will McFarlane bought the place nearly twenty years ago. So they'll keep the circa-1880 bar that came from Chicago, but turn it so that that bar is the first thing you see when you come in the door. And they'll not only keep the "Stampede" mural that's opposite the bar now, but they'll put booths beneath it to showcase the piece. They'll also replace the bathrooms -- "I call them 'antique,'" Ebert says -- and put in an entirely new kitchen.
It was the kitchen that got this project rolling. "Our initial intent was not to be down as long as we're going to be, but the project just grew," says Ebert. "We have a kitchen that was designed for a seventy-seat bar, but we're a 130-seat restaurant." And when construction is done, seating will have grown to 250, since the dining area will expand into spaces currently used for storage and offices. There will also be a tap-room-style side bar for more casual dining and drinking.
And that drinking will soon include craft beers made on site, since the Buffalo will be adding a brewery with a fifteen-barrel system. You'll be able to catch that tempting sight from I-70, too, through the garage-style doors that will replace the old windows at the back of the building.
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They're estimating the work will be done in March, which means the Buffalo will miss most, if not all, of ski season. "But summers are a busier time," notes Ebert. And the place should be looking good when you're stuck on I-70 next June.