We never thought of Phil's Place as a dive bar, even though this joint at 3463 Larimer Street is certainly the most modest spot in a booming part of RiNo, across the street from the Exdo Event Center, diagonal from Hop Alley. We always considered Phil's a neighborhood bar, since it held down this dusty corner of Denver's warehouse area long before the neighborhood was even dubbed RiNo.
The building got its start a century ago as Kelly's Drugstore. By the ’70s, it had become Dave's Lounge, then turned into Our Place and finally became Phil's Place in 2002. That's when we first came here, to get a taste of Junie Garcia's cooking. She'd been a cook at the Bamboo Hut, the late, legendary Mexican joint (yes: Owner J.R. Perez didn't bother to change the name when he bought the place at 2449 Larimer) that operated for decades ten blocks down the street. When Phil Garcia, son of Junie and Gary, took over Our Place from family members and turned it into Phil's Place, his parents followed him there. Father Gary can frequently be found behind the bar; Phil turned the former game room into a kitchen for Junie, where she continues to turn out her Mexican specialties, including fried tacos, big breakfast burritos and an incredible green chile.
A river of beer runs through our memories of Phil's. There was the time we sat down next to a house painter enjoying a few mid-day pops, who showed us his bullet wounds. The time a regular marveled at the fact that nearby Chuburger was charging $13 for a hamburger. Almost a decade ago, Dick Kreck held a book signing here for Smaldone: The Untold Story of an American Crime Family; he'd once met a Smaldone cellmate at the Phil's Place bar. But increasingly, jailbirds were being replaced at the bar by millennials who'd stop in for a quick, cheap drink before their table was ready at Hop Alley, or a nightcap at the end of a bachelorette party.
A river of beer runs through our memories of Phil's, but those are about to dry up. Phil and Junie, who bought out their son in 2006, posted this announcement on the Phil's Place Facebook page September 11.
As many have heard, yes it's true. We have sold. We want to express how much we appreciate all the wonderful people that came in and made Phils an exciting place to be. This is such a bittersweet moment, so we would like to invite everyone to party with us one last time. This party is 21+ (no exceptions) $30 all you can drink (please tip your bartenders).
We encourage everyone to bring pictures or any kind of memorabilia you've created here at Phils, as we all would love to reminisce all the crazy moments we shared with one another. There will be no tolerance for any kind of negative behavior as we are trying to say goodbye in the most positive way possible. We hope to see you all there.
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Phil's Place will close for good on October 7, after a $30 all-you-can drink End of an Era Celebration. In the meantime, the kitchen will keep serving (with limited hours) and the bar will keep pouring.
The end of this doesn't come as a big surprise. For the last few years, as new RiNo deals were announced almost daily and new construction popped up all around RiNo, we knew Phil's days were numbered. At the bar, when the family would sell was a frequent source of speculation, as regulars lamented the changes in what very few still call the "Eastside."
After months of rumors, Phil's Place has now issued last call. Time to raise a toast to the end of another Denver institution.
Update: This story was updated on Friday, September 14, to reflect a change in the date of the End of an Era Celebration.