It's time to raise a glass to Jim Karagas.
There's a lot of talk about old Denver and new Denver these days. But at the corner of 15th and Platte streets, there is only one Denver, and it's the Denver captured by My Brother's Bar, a watering hole beloved by newcomers and natives alike, as full of history and camaraderie as it is good, strong drinks.
This space has held a saloon since the 1870s; when it was Paul's Place, Neal Cassady racked up quite a tab there before he was sent to juvie. But its most storied era started fifty years ago, when two transplants from Detroit, brothers Jim and Angelo Karagas, landed in Denver and bought the place at 2376 15th Street. They never got around to naming it; when a creditor would come in, one of the brothers would always say, "Oh, that's my brother's bar. Talk to him." That's the explanation Jim gave, anyway.
The My Brother's Bar name stuck...so well that it's never needed a sign, not even back in the days when this was a dusty, desolate corner of Denver just past Confluence Park, the juncture of two waterways where the city got its start, not the hot-hot stretch of Platte Street that it is today.
While Jim oversaw My Brother's Bar, Angelo moved on to the brothers' second spot, ten blocks closer to downtown: the Wazee Lounge & Supper Club. When the Westword office was located above the Wazee, we got to appreciate Angelo's steady (and patient) presence; when we moved to Platte Street, we became fans of the congenial Jim, who was always on hand to greet customers and lead them to a cozy table. No need to worry about talking over TVs: My Brother's has never had them. This is a place for drinking and talking.
After Angelo passed away, the Wazee was sold, and sold again; in January, it closed altogether. Sometime this summer, it will reopen as Morin, a French restaurant for new Denver in an old Denver building.
My Brother's Bar sold last year, too. When it did, Jim finally got to retire, but the bar stayed in the family, or close enough: Paula Newman, who'd been working there for more than three decades, bought it with her husband and her son, Danny, an entrepreneur who'd conveniently sold a business in the summer of 2016, just as developers were sniffing around this prime piece of property.
"Our family is going to keep this piece of Denver history alive, both as a building as well as a place for people of all ages to come and continue to enjoy good food and drink, where friends and families can get together, relax and have fun," Danny Newman promised.
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After the deal closed, Jim Karagas was honored with a party at My Brother's in March 2017; last summer, he and Angelo were inducted into the Colorado Restaurant Association's Hall of Fame, in recognition of five decades of serving Denver...old and new.
Jim Karagas passed away on Sunday, June 17, Father's Day. At My Brother's, we were all part of his family.
Raise a glass.