When Kinga Klek decided she wanted to sell her fifteen-year-old bar, Kinga’s Lounge, she turned to the men downstairs in the Colmar Mansion: Josh Holder and Jeff Doan, who own HD Escape Rooms
, which has a location in the basement of the landmark on East Colfax Avenue at Marion Street.
Holder, who also owns the Frightmare Compound
, brought in close friend Lorin Rice, who'd run Lodo’s Bar and Grill before moving over to Lot One
in Arvada, and his wife, Jade Cue, who'd managed the Bitter Bar
in Boulder for the past five years. “It was a natural partnership when [Klek] wanted to sell,” Cue says. “They already had a good relationship, we know restaurants, and so it was very seamless in the transition.”
The foursome officially took possession of the bar and restaurant space on March 1, keeping the staff (though some have since moved on), and transforming it from a Polish dive into The Mansion on Colfax
, which focuses on American cuisine with a Central European influence.
The Mansion on Colfax used to be Kinga's Lounge.
“Because we're not Polish, we chose not to operate a Polish restaurant,” Cue continues. “That is the biggest difference. It's no longer a Polish restaurant. It's no longer a Polish bar. It's not really a dive bar anymore. We really wanted it to be a neighborhood spot, like that kind of dive bar feel, where you can come in your sweatpants or your jeans, hang out, and you can get a really incredible cocktail. Or you can get a PBR and a pickle shot. You can get pierogis or you can have an eight-ounce sirloin.”
Klek, who still owns the building, is honored with an unlimited pierogi weekend brunch. And at all times, the Mansion on Colfax honors the long and colorful history of the building itself. The space has been redecorated in emerald greens and other rich, dark colors, to exemplify the luxury and mystery of the place.
The Mansion's new decor is based on the building's history.
In 1889, G.V. Kram, who’d made a fortune in Colorado's gold rush, designed the lavish Colmar Mansion. According to legend, though, he never got to see the completed structure: He discovered that his much-younger lover had cheated on him, and he eventually killed himself in the basement of the still-under-construction mansion. Legend also has it that Kram never really left, and that his ghost still haunts the space.
The finally completed building then became home to Earl B. Coe, who also purchased the Denver Times
and proceeded to take on Denver Post
editor Frederick Bonfils by publishing pieces that criticized what Coe viewed as the Post
's overly sensationalized journalism. Coe didn't win that fight.
The mansion's next owner was pharmacist Thomas R. Bray, who bought the place in 1913. He'd amassed his wealth through more than peddling pills, and during Prohibition, he turned the basement into a speakeasy, with an entrance to tunnels that allowed illegal alcohol to be ferried from place to place.
The escape room space still bears marks from those days. “You could actually see the tunnel where they kind of walled it over, and how it led straight into here,” Cue says.
The ghost of Bray, who passed away in 1950, is also said to frequent the space.
In the 1960s, the mansion's first floor became home to the Heidelberg, a German restaurant that lasted until the 1980s. After that, it housed Janleone, an Italian restaurant, until 2004. The space was transformed into Kinga’s
From the start, Klek notes, she and her staff saw ghosts, including one of a dog, as well as glasses breaking and lights turning on and off by themselves. One night a bathroom mirror broke when the room was empty.
In October, the Mansion is offering a haunted pop-up in one of its rooms.
Doan is an amazing researcher, Cue says, and he'd been slowly working through the history of the building and finding proof of assorted legends. Among other things, he discovered a coin from the 1920s that showed that there was a brothel operating alongside the speakeasy, as well as an original menu from the Heidelberg.
The haunting hasn’t stopped, according to Cue, who's in the restaurant every day. “When we're in here alone, we're not open, you just hear certain sounds,” she says. “You can hear doors closing where you know there are no doors. You can hear windows opening where there are no windows, so it's just kind of spooky all the time.”
And it will be even spookier through this month, since Cue and the staff have temporarily transformed the space into a haunted pop-up, complete with an extra-tall skeleton, a prostitute skeleton, IV bags full of “blood,” bats galore and more nods to the building’s frightening history. Given Holder’s experience with the Frightmare Compound, a longtime haunted-house attraction in Westminster, the Mansion's owners had no problem going big and bad for Halloween. (Visitors to Frightmare can get $5 off their bill if they go to the Mansion afterward.)
In addition to the spooky decor, the pop-up is offering six specialty cocktails, each with a haunted twist. The Blood Witch, for example, includes a housemade raspberry and Fresno pepper syrup that turns the martini into a bloody treat. Save the Last Snake comes in a cauldron, and the Beetle’s Juice arrives with a smoke bubble floating atop the whiskey and red wine drink.
“Then we have the Drunkin Punkin, which is like my favorite thing,” Cue says. “It literally comes in a big pumpkin bucket, so it's really good for a group of people. You get silly straws with it.”
The pop-up will last until November 1. The weekend before Halloween, which falls on a Monday, the Mansion will host parties both Friday and Saturday night with a DJ and a costume contest. And for the entire week before Halloween, the bar staff will be dressed in costume.
“We actually have three matching nights, and then four nights where we're all just kind of freelancing,” Cue says. “We've got taxi drivers. We're doing IV bags for cocktails, so we have a ‘nurse’ on duty.”
Plans are already in the works for a dark Christmas pop-up in December.
Have a shot or a PBR with the skeletons at the Mansion all month.
But the long-term plan for the Mansion is to serve as a real gathering place for nearby residents. Cue and Rice lived in Westminster for the past decade but moved into the area after becoming partners in the space, befriending other business owners and immersing themselves in the neighborhood.
“Neither one of us really had a whole lot of experience with this part of Colfax,” Cue says. “So coming here and getting to know the community and getting to be a part of the community has been an incredible experience for us.”
This stretch of Colfax, like most of the legendary strip, is changing: The Ramada across the street was just torn down, making way for an apartment complex; the Irish Snug closed in January after nearly twenty years, which Cue describes as devastating for the neighborhood. Still, the Mansion's new owners are excited to be part of the area's future while preserving an important part of its past.
“People are excited about change, and excited about having something new, and excited about having something that's not quite just a dive,” Cue concludes. “Somewhere that they can come and get good food and good cocktails and still hang out.”
At a true neighborhood haunt.
The Mansion is located at 1509 Marion Street and is open from 4 to 11 p.m Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday. Brunch is served until 3 p.m. on weekends, and happy hour runs from 4 to 6 p.m. daily.