Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Yeehaw: The Stockyard Saloon Saddles Up for a Landmark Year

The Livestock Exchange Building: It won't look this quiet this weekend.
The Livestock Exchange Building: It won't look this quiet this weekend.
Dean Maus is once again getting ready for those sixteen-hour days he’ll be spending at his Stockyard Saloon come this weekend, when the National Western Stock Show gets under way. But he doesn’t mind the long hours: He’s happy the place is still open...and will be next year, too. And maybe the year after that. And…

A couple of years ago, as plans for the National Western Center project became more concrete, Maus wasn’t sure that those plans would leave room for the bar he’d already been running for more than a dozen years, in a spot that had been home to a stockyards watering hole for decades before that (as the Stockyards Inn, Doc's, the Old West Tavern and other venues lost to time). It’s located in the westernmost building in a three-structure complex smack in the middle of the property that’s being redeveloped into the $1.1 billion National Western Center, and for some time, the status of that complex was in limbo.

But just before the 2019 Stock Show was set to start, the City of Denver purchased the three-building Livestock Exchange complex from longtime owner Fred Orr, who’d acquired the property after it went into receivership two decades before. For $11.5 million, the city got the circa 1919 building that houses the Stockyard Saloon; the structure next to it, which dates back to 1898 and sustained considerable fire damage years ago; and the stunning, five-story Livestock Exchange Building that opened in 1916 as the headquarters of the Denver Union Stock Company, which had started the Stock Show a decade before as the Western Livestock Show.

For the first several years, the show was housed in tents, until the Stadium Arena was completed in 1909. In 2016, that structure was designated a Denver landmark; it will be an intrinsic part of the new center. And now it looks like the entire Livestock Exchange Building complex will also be protected; the city is planning to sell the structures (but keep some of the land), and one term of the sale is that the new owner apply for landmark status within one year of closing. To help with that, the city has already drafted the application for historic designation.

click to enlarge The original section of the Livestock Exchange Building, around 1900. - HISTORIC DENVER/DENVER PUBLIC LIBRARY
The original section of the Livestock Exchange Building, around 1900.
Historic Denver/Denver Public Library
The request for proposals from potential buyers of the 84,902 square-foot parcel went out this past summer.  "The City purchased the Property in January 2019 consistent with the National Western Center Master Plan adopted by the City in March, 2015," the document reads. "The objective of this RFP is to identify a qualified purchaser who will buy and successfully operate the property according to the mission and vision of the National Western Center."

And that mission is: "to convene the world at the National Western Center to lead, inspire, create, educate, and entertain in pursuit of global food solutions....The revolutionary campus will provide a broad focus on agriculture, food, livestock and animal health and performance; water, energy, sustainability and the environment; and entertainment, rodeo and equestrian events."

Among other things, the RFP asks a potential buyer to outline how its project would meet this mission and vision, agree to "accommodate a commemorative display provided by the City which describes the historic role of rail and the Denver Rock Island Railroad on the National Western Center campus for permanent display in the grand lobby entrance of the Property" (getting the railroad to agree to a move its tracks was key to the NWC plan), and also state its proposed purchase price: "Denver's minimum acceptable price is $9,000,000."

The submission deadline was September 13; the city says it's hoping to finalize the sale by early in the second quarter of this year.
The entrance to the Stockyard Saloon: Get in here! - SARAH MCGILL
The entrance to the Stockyard Saloon: Get in here!
Sarah McGill
But Maus, who signed a five-year lease with the city in October that the RFP also notes a new owner must honor, is looking at the more immediate future: This year's Stock Show.

Right now, he's stocking up on beer and whiskey, organizing the live bands that will play at his place every night, planning the shot specials and giveaways, and getting ready to host quite a party.

One that could well include a toast not just to the past, but the future of the Livestock Exchange Building, a true Denver landmark.

The Stockyard Saloon is located at 4710 National Western Drive; while the bar is normally open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, all bets are off during the Stock Show, when the bar is open seven days and late into the night. Call 303-298-0525 to check on hours.
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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun