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Saving Denver institutions is Danny Newman’s passion. As of late June, the tech entrepreneur, along with wife Christy Kruzick and business partner Austin Gayer, are the new owners of The Mercury Cafe—a Denver eatery offering live music, poetry slams, and more since 1975. The group purchased the restaurant and its building for $2.07 million last month, according to BusinessDen.
But this isn’t Newman’s first restaurant purchase. Nor is it his first time preserving an iconic Denver business and building. The Colorado native also owns one of Denver’s oldest establishments: My Brother’s Bar, a watering hole known for burgers and Girl Scout cookies that began as a saloon in 1873.
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“My mom has worked at My Brother’s Bar since I was four,” Newman says. “That’s why that connection happened. She’s been there the whole time; I grew up going there. It’s been a very solid piece of my upbringing.”
Jumping into the restaurant business once (much less twice) was not where Newman anticipated his career going. Prior to Brother’s, he was a successful entrepreneur, previously building and then selling Roximity, a mobile advertising platform. Around the time of the sale, he purchased Brother’s. “My mom knew the front of house and server side of things, but we had to quickly learn everything else,” Newman says. “And that’s how we started. That’s how I got into restaurants in general, but specifically a historic place like that.”
Newman grew up in the Mile High City frequently attending concerts and skateboarding around town. “That’s probably where I got a lot of excitement about exploring buildings,” he says. “There’s some like the Flour Mill Lofts that I have such cool memories of before Dana Crawford converted it. In the 1990s, [it] was still just a big, tall, abandoned building.”
Now Newman, who also owns the building that design collective Modern Nomad is in, has a growing track record of reimagining historic properties: He converted an old church on 6th Avenue into a residential property and a Villa Park Masonic lodge into a loft. But his latest purchase of The Mercury Cafe—a spot Newman frequented growing up—enables him to preserve the memories of the iconic venue he and others hold dear by keeping the cafe as is.
Over the years, The Mercury Cafe became a local hangout encouraging everyone to be themselves, attracting all walks of life from students and emerging artists to dancers, revolutionaries, and activists. Poet Andrea Gibson got their start at the cafe. Musician Nathaniel Rateliff also frequented the venue when he first moved to Denver. In addition to daily events, the cafe’s organic menu features locally sourced food and drinks.
Newman’s next act? A new development named Colfax Country Club. Located on West Colfax Avenue near Alamo Drafthouse, the property will have a tiny bar, Colfax’s tiniest motel with just a single room, a swimming pool, mini golf, and table tennis. Or, as the tireless new owner calls it: a “Colfax version of what a country club is.”
It’s clear gentrification is happening in and around Denver. But Newman is determined to save unique and historic places, like Colfax Avenue, My Brother’s Bar, and The Mercury Cafe. He says this is his number one goal.
“If everything gets torn down and turned into something else we don’t have any ties to those old, cool memories, personally or as a city, as everything continues to get wildly and drastically transformed,” Newman adds. “We get further and further away from pieces that make a mega city a city. … So [I’m] just doing what I can or what we can to save safe places that have history and have unique character.”
Correction: The original post stated Danny Newman owned Modern Nomad.