If you need to escape to the islands, you'd better do it before Sunday, because Hidden Idol is calling it quits. Another victim of the COVID-19 crisis, the popular tropical-themed bar will be serving its last tiki cocktail on Sunday, June 28, before closing for good.
Owner John Elliott says he just can’t make enough money for the bar to survive under the current restrictions put in place to flatten the curve on the coronavirus pandemic. “We’re allowed 50 percent capacity, but the way our bar is laid out, with social distancing we really can only do about 30 percent. Nobody opens a bar or restaurant planning on less than 50 percent capacity.”
The bar had a soft reopening two weeks ago after a three-month closure, and even though reservations filled up, Elliott just couldn’t make the numbers work. “In the Denver market, rents are high, and so is the cost of doing business for a liquor license. It’s a law of diminishing returns,” he explains. “We would need each person to drink five or six cocktails to make the money we need to make. We can’t responsibly serve people that many drinks. You serve somebody five Zombie drinks and you’d have to call an ambulance.”
The bar has been a favorite on the craft-cocktail scene, as well as with the Denver Tiki Tribe subculture. It opened as an intimate space on East Colfax Avenue (above the now-closed Southside Bar + Kitchen) in February 2017 before moving to a larger space in Jefferson Park exactly one year ago, making our list of the ten best new bars to open in 2019.
Announcement of the closure sparked an outcry from Tiki Tribe regulars on social media to try to save their beloved bar, suggesting a fundraiser or even moving it to a backyard speakeasy. When asked about the response, Elliott chuckles: “That would be great, but liquor laws don’t allow us to operate as a business like that. We would have to convert into some sort of caterer, and I think that would restrict our bartenders too much.”
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Elliott says he would rather see his talented mixologists, Ben Krajenke and Allister Obey, who’ve been with the bar since the beginning, seek out more lucrative freelance opportunities.
While Hidden Idol may be closing for now, Elliott says the goodbye isn’t forever. “Until we have a stable environment we can operate in, whether that means a vaccine, different requirements or the right space, we have to wait," he states. "But I’m keeping hold of the Hidden Idol intellectual property.”
He’s also curious to see how the pandemic is going to play out. “COVID is going to seriously change how our society functions," the bar owner says. "We look forward to being able to restart Hidden Idol in that new paradigm, once we know what it will look like.”
Hidden Idol is located at 2240 Clay Street and is open for reservations through the weekend. Call 720-389-8109 for details or visit the Hidden Idol website to make yours.