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La Cour Art Bar on South Broadway was a rare sort of place for Denver: an intimate, art-focused French bistro and jazz club. No screens, no gimmicks. Just a focus on art, music, French food and craft drinks, and conversation. It was the kind of place that co-owner Janet Poth experienced during her 40-odd years living abroad in France.
“It was a natural concept to me—to not have screens, to emphasize communication, talking to your neighbor. Looking at art, having live music in a dining ambiance,” Poth says. “I think I was probably off the mark.”
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Poth says that the concept never really took off in Denver, and so, after six years in business, she and her partner Joseph Monley decided to shut down for good. “My partner and I are turning 65 this year. When we opened in 2014, neither of us had grandchildren, but now we have four. At some point at the end of this year or next year we were going to try to find a way to transition,” she says. “Then COVID came along and imposed an earlier transition than we expected.”
La Cour may never have garnered big crowds, but it had its own devoted community who came for the jazz, the cocktails, and the people. Bartender Benjamin Janarelli (who 5280 named Best Bartender in 2018’s Top of the Town) says there was something very special about the spot, which came from the cozy environment that Poth created. Janarelli, known for his lavishly crafted drinks, got his job at La Cour after being stopped in his tracks on South Broadway by Poth’s garden, outside the bistro. He walked right in and told her how beautiful the place was, and Poth, understanding his appreciation for gardening and the artistic space, offered him a job on the spot. “It was so intimate,” Janarelli says. “There was a closeness about being there.”
La Cour’s Victorian-style building, which Poth and Monley own, is currently up for sale. Poth says that she hopes the next concept will be along the same lines of promoting local art and music. “Denver is chock full of great talent,” she says. Before it was La Cour, the building housed a deli, a Voodoo-style tea room, and even a fire department’s living quarters; it’s got versatility.
Janarelli also hopes that the building will continue in the same vein. “The business barely broke even; I think (Poth) kept it running because she knew she was supporting the local arts community, the local jazz community. I cannot say enough about her, she’s really just a generous person,” he says. “I don’t think she ever had a profitable year at that place and that wasn’t the point to her. The point was to create something beautiful, to create a space for artists and musicians and the community.”
In that same spirit, and in spite of La Cour’s closing, Poth is promoting 100 nights of Jazz, a way to support musicians through the pandemic era. Check La Cour’s music calendar for details and ways you can contribute.