For the past several months, behind the walls of a two-story, converted apartment building in Highland, Todd Colehour, a former executive with Kona Grill, along with his business partners and startender Sean Kenyon, who works behind the bar of the Squeaky Bean and writes our weekly "Ask the Bartender" column, have been secretly plotting a new bookstore that will be a false front for what they're really planning: a Prohibition-inspired speakeasy.
"It will be a working bookstore strewn with modern cocktail books, replications of cocktail books and cocktail recipe books from the 1800s, and there will be a hidden handle inside the bookcase the will open into a hallway that leads to the speakeasy," explains Kenyon, who's building the cocktail and ice program and training and educating the staff, while continuing to pour cocktails at the Bean. And once you've entered the speakeasy, he says, there won't be any rules to aide by. "A house of rules isn't our thing, and if we do have any rules, they'll be tongue-in-cheek," Kenyon asserts. "We want this to be a fun zone -- not a no fun zone."
The speakeasy will be fronted by the name Williams & Graham Booksellers, and, according to Kenyon, neither the facade nor the sign will provide any indication of what lurks inside the brick building at 3160 Tejon Street. "There will be no signage that even remotely suggests that there's a bar in here," notes Kenyon of the 62-seat watering hole that, he says, "will transport patrons back to the 1920s" with regard to the design and cocktails. "The decor will be deep woods, burgundies and velvet curtains," and the cocktails, insists Kenyon, "will stay true to the methodology of that era," which means "no molecular mixology, no freeze-drying, foams, or anything else like that." You won't, he promises, "be eating your gin and tonic." As for the mixologists, Kenyon says he's bringing in some of Denver's best, although he hints that "best" doesn't necessarily mean the obvious. "I've discovered some really amazing unknown gems in this city, and I'm really excited to introduce these people to the drinking public." They've hired a chef, too -- David Bumgardner, the former sous chef of Highland Tavern, a Marczyk Fine Foods alum and a guy who's powered by pig. "He's doing a lot of research for the menu," says Kenyon, adding that it, too, will get its inspiration from the Prohibition era -- "supperclub kind of stuff," he reveals.
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The board is still a work in progress, but Kenyon says that it will feature four starters, four main dishes, a handful of specials and several desserts -- and it'll be available until 1 a.m. nightly.
The speakeasy and bookstore are part of the first phase of Williams & Graham. Phase two, says Kenyon, will concentrate on the second floor. "That's where we'll have private rooms, a second bar and a deck with beautiful views."
There's a liquor-license hearing at 9 a.m. on May 13 at the Wellington Webb building, and you can follow the speakeasy's progress on its Facebook page. Colehour is targeting a late June opening date.