It's hard to blame COVID-19 or draconian bar restrictions on the closing of Rory's Tavern at 404 Broadway, especially when a legal notice on the front door claims that the owners owe nearly $160,000 in back rent. The three-year-old Rory's was known for rowdy sessions of Irish and blues music, but it opened at a time when Irish pubs were waning in popularity, and Denver had already lost quite a few in recent years, before the pandemic hit.
The bar itself has a much longer history, though, going all the way back to the end of Prohibition. The name of that original watering hole is lost to history, but in 1951 an underaged Jerry Feld bought the place, using his uncle's name on the liquor license, and opened Club 404.
It became a go-to place for people around town, drawn by the stiff drinks, steak specials and sassy waitresses; the extensive menu had something for everyone.
Feld was still running the joint on his eightieth birthday in 2011, when the bar celebrated its sixtieth anniversary — just as the clock struck midnight at the end of Saint Patrick's Day. But he closed Club 404 later that year, and passed away in 2014.
Over the last nine years, the old brick building became home to Denver Wheel Club 404 (a bicycle-themed joint) for a year or so, followed by Brendan's 404, which ran for three years. When Rory's opened, a few remnants of Club 404 remained, notably the old neon sign out front (although it had long since been stripped of its lights), the vintage bar with its brass foot rail, and the "Hep Hounds" mural inside painted by Constance Depler Coleman, whose art also adorns a wall inside the 715 Club in Five Points.
The life of Club 404 has paralleled the shifting times on Broadway itself, where long-running and mostly unchanged establishments continued to serve locals before rising real estate prices and consumer trends chased away the old-timers.
The pandemic may put a damper on something new moving in soon, but there's still plenty of life left in this old bar.
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