"This place is just destined to be weird," says Priscilla Jerez, co-owner of the Crypt
, which is set to open on January 13 in Uptown. Just a couple of weeks after the owners took over the space at 1618 East 17th Avenue, fliers for shows were posted out front — but the bands were from the 1980s. Weird, right?
It took some sleuthing, but Jerez was able to find out where the fliers were coming from. "Turns out there was an old Denver scavenger hunt going on," she explains. The hunt was organized by Denver creative (and Casa Bonita superfan
) Andrew Novick, who'd played at the space when it was a punk venue called the Grove in the 1980s — a history that Jerez wasn't aware of before the mysterious clues appeared.
Now those fliers are framed and hanging on the wall at the Crypt as an homage to its roots and its plans for the future, which include a stage that will be added soon. "Music is a big part of all of our lives," Jerez says. "We like it loud, fast and angry."
The "we" refers to business partners Chris Maynard and Dale Canino, whom Jerez met during her decade- long stint at Tooey's Off Colfax, which shuttered in December; Maynard was a co-worker, and Canino was a regular at the bar.
Now the three are excited to bring their experience to their own project. The Crypt's decor is filled with details inspired by death culture, including the book Death Scenes
and the television show Tales From the Crypt
. "It's stuff that I've been collecting for over twenty years," Jerez notes. "With a name like the Crypt, it's not just for show. ... We don't feel that death should be so taboo."
The bar's design, which Jerez says is inspired by "the same spooky, weird business that I've been doing for a long time," includes work by many local artists with whom Jerez and Maynard have formed relationships. "We wanted a place where we could build with community," she explains, noting that there is also the start of an altar, a reminder that those who have passed "come with us," Jerez explains.
Like those who were killed during the December 27 shooting rampage in Denver, including Sol Tribe tattoo shop owner Alicia Cardenas
. The Crypt will host a benefit for the victims on Sunday, January 16, with a silent auction starting at 4 p.m. during which you can bid on items like art, tattoos, massages, stained glass, jewelry, and bar and restaurant gift certificates.
While it's a dive bar first, the Crypt will also serve a full food menu created by its chef, Jon Tully. "It's bar food, but there's attention to detail. Everything's made from scratch," he says of the menu, which is mostly vegan, completely nut-free, and filled with gluten-free options as well.
"I don't want my vegan friends to just have to eat French fries," Jerez notes (although those will be available). At the Crypt, eating vegan translates to options like a Reuben made with eggplant that's soaked in beet juice for a red hue and roasted with pastrami spices, and a vegan poutine with a coconut milk-based vegan cheese that's made in-house.
The menu isn't completely meat-free, though. "We want people to feel comfortable at every level," Jerez says. "You can come in here and eat and have non-alcoholic drinks, or you can get hammered and eat a cheeseburger, too." A smashburger-style one, specifically, available in a single or double on a housemade brioche bun with Swiss and American cheese, dill pickles, onion and a caramelized-leek mayo.
"The food's going to be very approachable. Also, fiscally approachable," Tully adds. Everything on the menu (with the exception of the double cheeseburger) is under $10, and food will be served late at night, to cater to those in the industry.
While there will be a few house drinks on the menu, this isn't a cocktail bar. Instead, expect the typical dive-bar options, including beer-and-shot combos.
The team hopes that the Crypt will become a longtime neighborhood staple. "We have to preserve places the best we can," Jerez says. "Even if we're going to change it a little bit, let's get in there and be a part of our community instead of it being a condo."
"Denver has traditionally had so much character," Maynard adds. "That's the attraction of Denver, is that it's a really unique environment. But the more we keep losing. ... It's just cookie-cutter. And that's not how I want to see it. I don't think that's how anyone wants to see it."
The Crypt is definitely not cookie-cutter. "Obviously, you walk in here and it's very different," Jerez admits. "And that's what we love about it. It's somewhere where we can be ourselves, where people can be themselves. Everyone is welcome here. But we definitely cater to the weirdos."
The Crypt is located at 1618 East 17th Avenue and will be open 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Wednesday through Monday. The kitchen will be open from 4 p.m. to midnight on weekdays and 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, visit thecryptdenver.com.