This year seems like a strange time to open an expansive food, drink and live-music venue capable of holding more than a thousand guests at full capacity. But Spencer Fronk and and Andrew Palmquist have been planning Number Thirty Eight, at 3560 Chestnut Place, for the past two years, and many of their original ideas fit right in with these socially distanced, contact-free days.
Number Thirty Eight is the first in a series of entertainment venues Fronk and Palmquist have planned for several states, with Austin, Portland and Columbus also in the works. The name refers to Colorado's position as the 38th state to join the Union, and the theme of the place honors the Centennial State's past and present. As a destination, the venue, built from a former neon sign factory, comprises an outdoor stage and volleyball courts and an indoor restaurant with four service counters and two bars that run the entire length of the 12,000-square-foot interior.
"We're trying to encapsulate what it means to live in Colorado," Fronk states. "We're going to create the après lifestyle right here in the city."
What the co-owner is getting at is that Number Thirty Eight is built for guests to experience the Colorado outdoors, no matter the time of year. While the interior space is big, the outdoor area is even bigger, at 18,000 square feet, encompassing different seating and standing areas, a covered stage for live music and other entertainment, an outdoor bar and sand volleyball courts (available for league members). The whole thing looks out onto the Platte River and the Rocky Mountains beyond. Palmquist and Fronk plan to keep outdoor programming going throughout the year, relying on Colorado's mostly sunny weather as well as the state's love of being outdoors even in the winter.
Most of the customer experience is designed with minimal contact in mind. Guests check in at the entry and present their IDs to received a color-coded wristband, since Number Thirty Eight welcomes all ages. The host also takes temperatures, phone numbers and credit cards, and the wristbands come with a chip that then replaces cash and cards throughout the building. So you can pay as you go without having to reach for your purse or wallet, and the wristbands can all be connected to one credit card for corporate events or other groups who want to pay from just one account.
The food comes courtesy of chef Merlin Verrier's Street Feud, which previously served tacos, bao buns and flatbread at Avanti Food & Drink. After a planned brick-and-mortar Street Feud at First Avenue and Broadway fell through last spring, the chef connected with Fronk and Palmquist. Before moving to Denver, Verrier was the culinary director for Lollapalooza in Chicago for a decade, so serving food in a music venue seems appropriate.
Street Feud's tacos, bao buns and flatbread are back, and Verrier has also added salad and grain bowls; flavors span the globe, with Mexican, Korean, Thai, Indian and American flavors intermingled on the menu. Loaded fries follow an international pop-music theme, so you can order K-Pop (with kimchi and pork belly), Mariachi (with nacho-style toppings) or Luk Thung (with peanut sauce, hard-boiled egg and Thai basil). There are plenty of vegetarian and vegan options throughout the menu, including crispy mushroom tacos (Verrier says even mushroom-haters will be converted), Korean barbecue jackfruit bao buns, falafel flatbread and a green papaya salad.
"This is the future of the food and beverage industry," says Palmquist, referring to the overall layout, payment style and culinary offerings. He and Fronk agree that it's a rarity for a music venue to offer high-quality food, drinks and entertainment all at once, but that's their goal.
The two indoor bars are set up as 24 taprooms in miniature, each representing a different Colorado beer, wine, cider or spirits producer. So you can spend all evening sipping your way through offerings from Carbondale's Marble Distilling Co. or Broomfield's 4 Noses Brewing, for example, or you can pick and choose from the many other beverages, which Palmquist says will rotate regularly. Even well drinks will be all-Colorado. To start with, only seven producers will be represented (because of COVID-related restrictions), but eventually, all 24 bar stations will be activated.
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Throughout the space, Western decor dominates, with stereotypical animal hides, antlers and taxidermied heads, as well as unique pieces such as a topographical map of Colorado with all the booze vendors marked by location and a panorama of the state's geography above the urinals in the men's bathroom.
While the venue is capable of hosting 1,000 or so guests outside and hundreds inside, for now capacity is limited to 175 on the patios and about sixty inside. Palmquist notes that one side of the bar is closed for service but will allow seating in groups, and the side that has active taps and wells will not seat customers. Outside, Adirondack chairs are arranged in groups in front of the stage, and various other tables and lounge seating areas are also available. Mingling and standing room are currently not allowed, however, so all seating is by reservation only until city and state restrictions are eased. But there's no cover and no ticket to purchase in advance; a reservation is all that's needed to enjoy the entire experience. Bands have already been booked through October; visit Number Thirty Eight's website for details.
Number Thirty Eight opens this Friday, October 9, and will be open from 3 p.m. to midnight Thursdays and Fridays, 11 a.m. to midnight Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays. (Last call in Denver is currently 11 p.m.) Call 303-493-6651 or visit nmbr38.com for more details.