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My Brother’s Bar has been satiating Denverites’ appetites for reliable pub grub and stiff drinks since long before other beloved local dives entered the scene. Much of the signless LoHi bar’s 150-year history is blurry, but its icon status is clear. To celebrate one of the Mile High City’s oldest watering holes, we asked current owners Danny, Dave, and Paula Newman to fill us in on its quirkiest lore.
Highland House (aka Capelli’s Place, perhaps) opens at 15th and Platte streets as a boarding facility for Italian immigrants. Denverites can’t indulge in the spot’s wax-paper-wrapped burgers quite yet, but it does have a bar and restaurant.
The 18th Amendment bans alcohol sales, but the bar, now known as Schlitz Brewing Company, continues to (illegally) sling the gin rickeys and old fashioneds popular at the time.
You’ve probably heard about how Beat poet Neal Cassady—who helped inspire his friend Jack Kerouac’s On the Road—ran up a tab at the bar, and you may even have seen a copy of Cassady’s signed 1944 IOU tacked up near the restrooms. But did you know that, decades later, the second floor mysteriously evaporated, leaving behind what is now called the “stairway to nowhere”? “At some point, we think in the ’60s, [the second floor] disappeared,” Danny says. “There’s no evidence of a fire, and no one has any recollection of it.”
Jim and Angelo Karagas buy the bar, then known as Paul’s Place (according to accounts from the brothers) or maybe Platte Bar (according to state documents). The new moniker, which thankfully isn’t up for debate, comes from how the siblings evade paying vendors. “Don’t look at me,” they say. “It’s my brother’s bar.”
To help his daughter, Demi, a Girl Scout who needs to unload cases of cookies, Jim orders them in bulk and resells them to late-night patrons. “[Jim would] buy tens of thousands of dollars in Girl Scout cookies in his heyday,” Danny says. The tradition stuck: Visitors can still purchase boxes of Thin Mints and Do-si-dos, which the bar stocks up on during February cookie season and stores in the stairway to nowhere until they sell out.
Paula is employed as a server at My Brother’s Bar and works her way up to head waitress and, eventually, front-of-house manager. Her son, Danny, joins her as a busser/food runner in the late ’90s when he’s on summer break from the Denver School of the Arts.
Paula calls Danny, now a successful tech entrepreneur, upset because the bar is closing. Jim and his family are ready to exit the business and intend to sell the building to a developer. Instead, Danny matches the developer’s offer of more than $3 million, and the Newmans (including Paula’s husband, Dave) become the proprietors of My Brother’s Bar in January 2017.
Three years to the day after COVID-19-induced shutdowns, My Brother’s Bar returns to its full weekend hours, keeping the kitchen open for orders of its jalapeño-cream-cheese-laden JCB burgers until 1:30 a.m. And what are the Newmans’ plans for the bar’s future? “Nothing,” Danny says. “The point is to keep it exactly the same.”