There’s a lot going on at Number Thirty Eight, the brand new music, food, booze, and volleyball venue on Chestnut Street in RiNo that opened last week. Co-owners Spencer Fronk and Andrew Palmquist, both Denver natives (and a mere 28-years-old), have been planning the expansive indoor-outdoor concept since long before the pandemic began, yet have pivoted their approach to fit perfectly—and safely—with the times.
Even with winter approaching, Fronk and Palmquist are enthusiastic about opening Number Thirty Eight right now. “We want this to be Denver’s après destination,” says Fronk. “We’re natives and know well how much Coloradans like to be outdoors. We hope people will bundle up; in fact, we can’t wait for the first show when it’s snowing.”
Concert-goers will experience a thoughtfully planned health and safety process at Number Thirty Eight, from the wrist bands you receive upon entry that support contact tracing and touchless ordering and payment to the spacing of the myriad seating arrangements. (More on that in a moment.) Half of the 120 taps and bar seats won’t be operational or available until post-COVID, and a maximum of 175 guests will be allowed into the enormous space—12,000 square feet inside, 18,000 square feet outside—instead of its normal-times capacity of 1,000. It’s reservations-only to enter, as well, across two daily seatings: 3 to 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. to close, with a full sanitization of the facility in between. Of course, masks are mandatory when you’re not seated.
There are several different areas to Number Thirty Eight, designed by local firm Engine 8 Architecture & Design, where you can spread out on your own or with a group: the Western-themed lounge near the entrance, set with living room furniture and anchored by an antler chandelier by Denver’s Make West; the garage-door-walled bar space with high tops and community tables where you can perch halfway between the stage and the bar; the stage area, outfitted with custom Adirondack chairs with cup holders; a picnic-table strewn recessed patio along Chestnut Street; and two long bar rails.
The beverage program is entirely locally based, from the well spirits (Spring 44 gin; Mythology Distillery rum and vodka; Woody Creek Distillers bourbon, Suerte tequila) to the opening roster of Colorado suds, cider, and wine. First up are Denver’s Carboy Winery; Broomfield’s 4 Noses Brewing Company; Boulder’s Upslope Brewing Company; and Denver’s Stem Cider, among others. Each producers’ branding—and eventually, glassware—is represented and Number Thirty Eight staff train with the beverage makers, too, to effectively communicate the story behind the drink. “It’s like going to Woody Creek’s taproom in Basalt without having to leave Denver,” says Fronk.
Food is an integral part of the operation, too, with chef Merlin Verrier in charge, bringing fan favorites from his Avanti Food & Beverage stall, Street Feud, to the venue. After a decade as the culinary director of Lollapalooza in Chicago, Verrier knows that the right mix of fresh and more decadent fare is essential to satisfying all of his music-loving guests. So, you can dine on a feel-good charred kale bowl with wonderfully crispy pork belly, quinoa, goat cheese, and hemp hearts in a lemon vinaigrette; bao stuffed with fried fish or Korean-style barbecue jackfruit; flatbreads; tacos; and loaded french fries, too. (The K Pop fries, with more of that pork belly, kimchi, crema, cheddar cheese sauce, scallions, and sesame seeds, would be hard to resist on a chilly-sunny Denver afternoon—or any time.) All is served on compostable tableware.
Local bands are booked to play at Number Thirty Eight through the end of October, performing two sets each day; there’s no cover charge and no minimum order required to enjoy the show. Fronk and Palmquist are planning for more than live music though, with stand-up comedy, movies, and even fashion shows in the works.
Where does volleyball come in? There are two sand courts on the far south of the location, which are managed by Play Mile High; make reservations for play time through that site, not Number Thirty Eight’s. (Note: There is no eating or drinking on the volleyball courts, and masks must be worn at all times.)
Named after Colorado’s status as the 38th state in the nation and inspired by the live music scene in cities like Nashville, Tennessee, and Austin, Texas, Fronk and Palmquist have a simple goal for their multipurpose endeavor: “We don’t want anyone to have to make a choice between good music and good food and drink,” says Fronk. The duo intend to bring similar concepts to Portland, Oregon (Number Thirty Three), Columbus, Ohio (Number Seventeen), and Austin (Number Twenty Eight) over the next two years, but Denverites get first access—and rightly so.
3560 Chestnut Place, 303-493-6651. Thursday and Friday, 3 p.m. to midnight; Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. There is free street parking along Chestnut Place, and pay parking at the nearby Catalyst Building; rideshare lanes are available.