Residents of the always-hot Highlands neighborhood have a new reason to go out and celebrate. The Highland Tavern is set to open this week in east Highlands at 3400 Navajo (I believe this part of town is also known as Sunnyside) and locals are already dropping in to get to know the hippest new neighborhood bar on the hill.

I swung by the Tavern last night to say hello to owners Brian Sommatino (Red Room, Goosetown Tavern) and Kris Baehre, and to check out the progress on the new joint. In the span of just two hours, half a dozen passers-by dropped in, and a few of them stayed long enough to pull up a bar stool and chat for a bit. Seems that neighbor Irvin, a 40-year resident of the block, has all the dirt on who’s who and what’s what around the area, and another neighbor, Floyd — and his shepherd mix, Bay — are planning to make the Tavern a regular stop.

The space is open and warm, with brick-red walls and an open floor plan. Mixed seating of bar stools, tables, and booths all receive plenty of fresh air from the two glass garage doors at the entrance, which rolled up completely for last night’s balmy breezes, and roll down on nippy nights like tonight. Future plans include a south-facing patio with a killer view of downtown, and the addition of an upscale grill next year.

For now, drop by starting Wednesday for a few mellow friends-and-family warm up nights, or wait until Friday and Saturday for the grand opening bash. Though they won’t host live music regularly, local rockabilly band Jett Black will perform on Friday night, and the Scattered Arts Collective will open an art show as part of the First Friday art walks. Saturday, get ready to ring in the ski season with Never Summer Snowboards’ video premier of “Put Me In Coach,” with plenty of drink specials and DJ Klaw kicking things into gear. If last night is any indication, this place will soon have a loyal following of locals, and folks like myself who are willing to make a short trip to hang out with quality people like Brian and Kris. It’s a great addition to an already-great part of Denver.