Our prayers to the gods and goddesses of things that squeak have been been fulfilled: After shuttering in June, following a break-down in lease negotiations between Squeaky Bean head bean counter Johnny Ballen and his landlord, the owners of Rosa Linda's, the Bean is re-sprouting. "We're puttin' the Bean back together, man. We're on a mission from God," quips Ballen, who, on Friday, inked a lease on the historic Saddlery Building at 1500 Wynkoop Street.
Built in 1900, the 70,000 square-foot, red-brick structure was approved for renovation and additions by the Lower Downtown District's Design Review Board in 2006, and the mixed-use project, which includes office space, penthouse units and retail and restaurant square footage, will trumpet the Squeaky Bean as its first tenant. "We'd been looking for a space since May as a back-up plan in case our lease negotiations fell through at the original Bean, and it was really important to us to find the perfect spot with the right character and flavor, and as soon as I saw the Saddlery building, I knew it was the right place to bring the Bean," says Ballen. "We looked at ten spaces total, and we had a lot of people who contacted us to see if we were interested, which was a huge compliment, but ultimately, we just knew that this was where we wanted to be."
Ballen, who will be be rejoined by the entire Bean team -- everyone -- including exec chef Max MacKissock, says he chose the Saddlery Building for a number of reasons, including its location and historic significance. "This is a building that's been beautifully restored, and it has a tremendous amount of character, like exposed timbered ceilings and beams, and it didn't feel at all contrived, which was super-important to us," explains Ballen. And the address, he says, couldn't be more ideal. "This is a fantastic location with a great dynamic: We're close to Coors Field, the Pepsi Center, and even the theater district, and this part of downtown Denver is going through some really great changes -- it's really coming alive -- and we're very excited to be a part of it."
And for those of you who might be worried that the new quarters won't retain the same feel and irreverence as Bean Number One, Ballen offers this: "We'll definitely keep the neighborhood feel, just like at the old Bean, and we'll have an awesome, seventeen-seat bar with a community table," he promises. "I really think that we can be the same hangout that we were in the Highland, and we've got a lot of really fun, quirky stuff planned."
Ballen is keeping a tight lid on what, exactly, those eccentricities will be, but he does confide that he'll continue to have rotating celebrity shrines to those who have passed (no word, though, on whether Farrah Fawcett will command an entire shelf). "The space is going to be really fun and full of timeless things and lots of quirkiness," discloses Ballen.
And he also reveals that the biggest change -- a kitchen, which was virtually non-existent in the former Bean -- will only add to the Bean's allure. "No more Barbie Dream Kitchen! We're going to have a full-blown, real-deal exhibition kitchen, along with a chef's counter, and while Max's menu will expand -- he'll incorporate a few more vegetarian dishes -- it will remain focused. We don't want a floor-to-ceiling menu," he adds, noting, too, that he "can't wait to see what Max does with all his new toys."
When the Bean reopens, it will bust out dinner seven nights a week, happy hour and brunch on Saturday and Sunday -- with an expanded brunch menu. "I'm excited to do some things that we couldn't do at the original Bean because of our kitchen constraints, and that includes a larger brunch menu, more vegetarian items and happy hour," says Ballen.
"There's been a lot of pressure on us to reopen," he admits, "but we took our time, because I wanted the space to be perfect, and while I felt like a zombie after signing the deal on Friday, it's finally beginning to sink in, and now it's game on -- here we go."
Spring can't come soon enough.
In the meantime, MacKissock, along with several members of the Bean staff, is doing a multi-course dinner at Cafe Options on December 9 and 10 to benefit Work Options for Women-- and seats are still available.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.