My Brother's Bar Celebrates 150th Anniversary | Westword

It's All Relative: My Brother's Bar Celebrating 150th Anniversary

The building at 2376 15th Street has held a bar since 1873.
My Brother's Bar at 150...sort of.
My Brother's Bar at 150...sort of. Patricia Calhoun
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My Brother's Bar, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary today, September 18, isn't really 150 years old — although the building it occupies at 2376 15th Street dates back to 1873. And while the address has gone through many identities and owners, the long, worn bar in the front has been in constant action for the past 150 years. So why not celebrate?

That's what the Newman family will do today, with special deals at My Brother's Bar all day, including JCBs for $1.50 (if you have to ask, you just need to go and experience this burger for yourself), as well as live music at 6 p.m. and an appearance by descendants of the Capelli family, which built the structure.

The Newman family has owned My Brother's Bar since 2017, although Paula Newman had worked there for decades before her son, Danny, led the charge to buy the historic spot from the Karagas family as developers with an eye to knocking down the building were knocking on the door

Jim and Angelo Karagas, brothers two years out of Detroit, had bought the place on April 1, 1969. By then it was known as Platte Bar, after getting its start in 1873 as Highland House (or Capelli's Place), then transforming into a Schlitz Brewing bar in 1907 and somehow surviving Prohibition. In the 1940s, it became Paul's Place, where Neal Cassady, the inspiration for Jack Kerouac's On the Road, might still have an outstanding tab, judging from the letter he sent a pal while sequestered in the Colorado State Reformatory: "I frequented the place occasionally & consequently have a small bill run up, I believe I owe them about 3 or 4 dollars. If you happen to be in that vicinity please drop in & pay it, will you?"

Somewhere along the line — maybe when it was Whitie's in the 1950s, before it turned into Platte Bar — the building lost its top floor. But through it all, the bar kept pouring.

The Karagas brothers bought "an old dump that was cheap," Jim Karagas told me around the time his ownership had passed the four-decade mark. The brothers ran the bar for a couple of years without any name and without much money, and when a tradesman came in with a bill, one brother would tell him to "give it to my brother, it's his bar," Jim remembered. "It just dawned on us one day that we should call it My Brother's Bar."

And that's what the bar's been known as ever since.

For many years, My Brother's Bar had an actual sibling. In 1974, the Karagas brothers bought the Wazee Supper Club, which had been created in an old plumbing-supply building eight blocks away, at 1600 15th Street. But after Angelo, who oversaw the Wazee, passed away, one bar was enough for Jim. The eighty-something tavern keeper continued to oversee My Brother's, greeting customers new and old, until it finally became time for him to retire, and his children didn't want to take over.

But they kept My Brother's in the restaurant family. Danny Newman had basically grown up at My Brother's Bar, watching his mother work, and he and his parents vowed "not to change a thing" when they took over in early 2017. The bar is still closed on Sundays (an attempt to open My Brother's before home Broncos games last fall was short-lived; the staff includes too many sports fans to make it work). There will never be TVs inside, Danny promises. And outside, the front will never get an official sign.

Still, there have been a few changes. Air-conditioning has been added to the 150-year-old building, for example, and there are now printed menus on every table. During the pandemic, there were other innovations, including plenty of outdoor seating under domes. But now the parking is back (though Danny wonders if it's really necessary, given how the neighborhood has boomed) as are the caddies — the classic condiment trays that come out with the wax-paper wrapped burgers (no plates, please). The man who made them and kept them functioning has passed, though, and "we are in need of a new manufacturer," Danny admits.

My Brother's wasn't his only save of a legacy; he led a group that bought the Mercury Cafe, and he purchased the top floors of the D&F Tower. He's also got plans for a watering hole on West Colfax Avenue in an old gas station. And there are even more possibilities for innovations at My Brother's, all in keeping with the 150-year-old building's spirit. "There's all kind of fun to brainstorm," he says.

But in the meantime, there are at least 150 reasons to celebrate today. 
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