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Last September, after 40 years of serving as Bonnie Brae’s main watering hole, the neon sign of the Campus Lounge went dark. The old standby had closed its doors. Bar regulars were distressed and the community was bitter about losing such a pivotal piece of Denver history. But owner Jim Wiste was moving on; the time had come for the former University of Denver hockey player to retire.
Just when it felt like all hope was lost for the iconic location, longtime Denverite and restaurateur Daniel Landes saved the day. The founder of Watercourse Foods (which Landes sold in 2015), City, O’ City, and Make, Believe Bakery purchased the Campus Lounge with three goals in mind: relight the neon sign, turn the Campus Lounge into a focal point for the community, and foster an environment that will allow guests to “eat and drink with gusto.” Campus Lounge 2.0 officially opens tomorrow, Saturday, October 21.
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“When I walked into the Campus Lounge many years ago, I didn’t think much about it. When I found out it was for sale, I realized what an iconic spot it is in Denver,” Landes says. “I saw how much a space like that puts love and value into the city. I realized there was a lot of potential.” From the start, Landes knew that the sign had to stay, along with the wooden horseshoe-shaped bar.
Other than that, the well-worn drinkery has been updated. The colors are warm, the decorating is intentional, and the environment is inviting and comfortable. “I quickly learned that it was going to be a big project. We stripped everything down,” Landes says. “Our job is to earn the respect of the neighborhood, so we worked hard on creating an environment that can do just that.”
Landes has also updated the menus. Guests will find plenty of local brews, a small but mighty wine list, and classic handcrafted cocktails featuring no more than five ingredients each. And while Landes’ other restaurants cater to vegetarians and vegans, the Campus Lounge will offer fare for meat eaters, as well. About 70 percent of the menu will be plant-based, and Landes is sourcing local Corner Post Meats for carnivores. “My head chef, Chris Medved [formerly of Steuben’s, City, O’ City, and Ace Eat Serve], is killing it. We are going to offer made-from-scratch bar food. We want to make dishes that you would want to eat four or five times per week,” Landes says. As of press time, the menu includes a Korean fried chicken sandwich with sweet soy sauce and Napa cabbage slaw (you can make it vegan by swapping fried tofu for the bird) and “Adult SpaghettiOs,” a take on pork shoulder Bolognese.
For now, the Campus Lounge will serve as a lunch and dinner hangout, but Landes plans to incorporate brunch in early 2018.
The new Campus Lounge is open from 11 a.m. to midnight, Sunday through Thursday, and until 2 a.m on Friday and Saturday.
701 S. University Blvd., 303-722-9696