Development group McWhinney set out to make the Dairy Block a beacon of dining, drinking and shopping in downtown Denver, and every new tenant revelation raises the bar on that promise. On the heels of the announcement that Frank and Jacqueline Bonanno are building massive market hall Milk Market there comes the news that Steven Waters, most recently of White Lies (the dinner side of Black Eye Coffee that recently closed), is plotting an underground cocktail bar called Run for the Roses, going in beneath the space that once held the Celtic Tavern at 1801 Blake Street.
Run for the Roses refers, of course, to the Kentucky Derby, and Waters says the name pays homage to the history of the building and the space itself. “During World War II, Windsor Creamery converted deliveries to use horses, and they kept horses on the grounds, so there were stables there,” he explains. “But the Celtic and Delaney’s were also there for sixteen years, and they had off-track betting for horse and dog races. Run for the Roses pays homage to that and plays into the luck and superstition.”
The design, too, will draw on luck, superstition and gambling, with a nod to the equestrian inspiration: “We’re channeling the lifestyle of going to the track or an underground gambling establishment; it’s ostentatious but not public-facing,” says the owner. “There will be a little pomp and circumstance.”
He plans to fill the 1,700-square-foot space with lounge seating, couches, loveseats and big chairs, inspired by baroque architecture and geared toward comfort.
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A small private room will seat up to fifteen people, and groups of six or more can reserve it. “That space will be closed off from the normal bar area. It’ll have it’s own cocktail server to order from, and we’ll put a record-player console in there, so groups can sit in there and play records, play some games, hang out and have that as your own room.”
Waters promises Run for the Roses will feature many excuses to chill for an extended evening, including what he says will be an unusually engaging and interactive menu, though he won’t yet reveal exactly what that means. The bar will serve, he says, “off-brand classics — not the typical classics that everyone knows, but a little further out there and less-well-known classics.” He’s also planning to offer cocktails featuring vintage and rare spirits. And drinks will pair with a food menu that deals upscale, old-school bar snacks: “We’ll have a foie gras torchon that will stay on the menu, and the set will rotate based upon what we’re using in-house — syrups, berries, all the accoutrement will change. We also want to do a cool take on a caviar service and try to keep it somewhat affordable — you’ll be able to order caviar for two, four or six.”
Despite the gambling-den environs and the fact that it will be hard to enter Run for the Roses — there’s an entrance through the yet-to-be-announced retail market that’s going into the old Celtic space, plus an entrance off the Dairy Block’s activated alley — Waters emphasizes that this is not a speakeasy: “This is a cocktail bar, it just so happens that we’re downstairs.”
When Run for the Roses opens, it’ll serve Thursday through Sunday nights, with private-event availability Monday through Wednesday. Waters says he’s shooting for an early 2018 debut, “ideally between February and April.”