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Up the river

Red River Saloon calls it quits

After a brief stint as a barbeque joint, the Red River - Saloon has closed its doors. - BRUCE ELLIOTT
  • Bruce Elliott
  • After a brief stint as a barbeque joint, the Red River Saloon has closed its doors.

Goodbye, brisket. Goodbye, decorative cowboy boots. Goodbye, picket fence in the window.

Just three months after restyling former downtown music venue 32 Bleu into a honky-tonk palace, the Red River Saloon has closed.

The Red River, at the high-profile corner of Colorado and Tejon downtown, was locked last Friday. Budweiser employees taking down their neon signs were the only workers to be seen. On Saturday, a scrawled note reading "Checks have been mailed" was taped to the door.

Restaurant employees say they were officially informed of the closing about one week ago, but rumors began swirling beforehand.

Disappearing wine

Brian Koontz, a cook who worked at both 32 Bleu and Red River, says the writing was on the wall.

"It was obvious," he said. "They were gutting the place; things were disappearing, like the wine and the pool table.

"We [the employees] actually had a pool on when they'd close."

Marc Peralta, a former 32 Bleu promoter and current co-owner of music promotion company Soda Jerk Presents, agrees the Red River's slope was a slippery one.

The problem, he says, was a good idea handled poorly.

"I thought that since there's not a place like that [BBQ restaurant] downtown, it'd do well," Peralta said. "But as far as the music -- there was nothing to separate it from the rest of the Friday-night bar bands in town."

For the two-and-a-half years that the venue was open, it was changed from 32 Bleu to Tejon St. Bistro and, in January, with a complete makeover, to the Red River Saloon.

"They changed things for the worse. It was consistently inconsistent," said Koontz.

Jason Spears, general manager of the venue since its days as 32 Bleu, did not return phone calls for comment.

Both Koontz and Peralta point to a basic problem in the venue's layout: combining fine dining downstairs with an upper-level music venue.

Never worked

According to Peralta, the interaction was like "putting a strip club next to a Sunday school. It's a mixture that never worked."

The future of the venue most recently known as the Red River Saloon is unclear. As of last Thursday, Brent Frush of the Bain Corporation, the company that manages the property, said he hadn't been told of Red River's closing.

Yet hope springs eternal that the building will remain a music venue.

Peralta says part of the venue's problem is its abundance of space: Big space equals big bills.

Still, he's fairly confident that another venue will open, pointing to his own success organizing shows in the Springs, something he's done since 1999.

"We're not a suburb of Denver. I think the city has potential -- or I wouldn't be here."

--Kara Luger

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