The Annotated Gospel According to Regas Christou

Anyone who knows Denver’s foul-mouthed, hyper-educated, perennially controversial nightclub king knows that he’s a storyteller. But whether you think he’s as fabulous as he claims to be—or merely a very entertaining fabulist—the one thing everyone can agree on is that the guy just can’t seem to keep his mouth shut.

December 2010

Regas book I

I’m a newcomer to this country. I have only been here for 40 years. I always felt that I had to jump a little higher, which is OK.

This little greek guy is going to kill me. We’re dashing through The Church, his best-known nightclub, and I’m desperately trying to keep up. I’ve been hanging with Regas Christou, the club’s owner, since 6:30 p.m., when we drank the first of several bottles of wine at a dinner party at his house. Now it’s midnight, and I’m ready to conk out, while Christou—who, at 58, is old enough to be my father—is still going strong.

I keep losing sight of him in the crowd of jacked-up dudes hyper-focused on their Red-Bull-and-vodkas and their barely clad female companions. Christou is maybe 5 feet 8 inches, maybe a buck fifty, but instead of rolling through the club with an owner-worthy posse, he’s doing a solo speed-walking loop. If the dudes only knew that the little man responsible for their weekend enjoyment was right behind them, trying to get by, they would step aside. The Church, after all, was ranked the best club in the United States in 2003 and 2004, topping venues in hot spots like Las Vegas, New York, and Miami. Instead, Christou darts through his venue looking like a skinny freshman dodging upperclassmen to beat the bell.

The last few hours have been a whirlwind tour of the Christou empire. We’ve already hit the Living Room, his quiet wine bar, and City Hall, which was holding a fund-raiser for the burn center at the University of Colorado Hospital. Bar Standard is closed tonight, but shortly, we’ll be headed to Vinyl, a four-story megaclub owned by his sister Maria that’s hosted parties for everyone from Magic Johnson during the 2005 NBA All-Star Weekend to Rosario Dawson during the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

This is Christou’s weekend routine. After he reads his two young sons, Nicos and Roman, a bedtime story and gives a goodnight kiss to Melissa, he heads out to survey his empire. At every club, we check in on each floor, knifing between the sweaty, dancing hordes to make sure everything is going smoothly. We talk to a bartender here, a manager there, and we eventually find ourselves on the rooftop patio of The Church. Ah. Deep breath. It actually smells like fresh air up here, not just Axe body spray, and the views of a lit-up Capitol Hill and downtown are striking. When Christou opened his first club here in 1992, central Denver was essentially one giant flophouse for the city’s homeless. Today, condo complexes have gone in, the Denver Art Museum has added a new wing, and there’s even an overhaul of Civic Center in the works. When we pulled up to 11th and Broadway a few hours earlier, Christou pointed to the Arby’s across the street. A parking attendant was waving people into the lot; with all the cultural diversions and nightclubs, parking can be as difficult to find here as it is downtown. “Fifteen dollars to park!” Christou shouted. “Can you believe that? Five years ago, it was too scary to park.”

It’s a neighborhood that has mostly transitioned from dangerous eyesore to urban destination. And whether the police, the public, or City Hall like it or not, it’s a neighborhood Regas Christou helped make.