Denver, Colorado – March 2, 2015 – Rowdy watering holes crowded Denver’s dusty streets before Prohibition’s lofty ideals took hold in 1916. Until the infamous ban on alcohol was repealed in 1933, legions of entrepreneurs illicitly made and sold homemade booze, smuggling whiskey across state lines. The new Whiskey Tango Foxtrot bar in Denver’s emerging Prospect Park neighborhood, designed by award-winning architecture firm Arch11, offers an ode to that era’s clandestine activities – with a decidedly modern twist for the area’s youthful demographic.
Known for its stylish approach to crafting the new-American drinking and dining experience, including such Denver/ Boulder standards as Jax, Lolas, Oak on Fourteenth, and the Bitter Bar, Arch11 most recently set the stage for the next classic neighborhood bar with the new Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.
In an area near Coors Field where industrial loft conversions and high-density new-builds dominate, Arch11 was part of a collaborative team―assembled by the Tavern Hospitality Group―that envisioned “a timeless bar atmosphere that would be the social hub of the neighborhood,” explains Arch11 principal and lead architect on the project Ken Andrews. “This is the place where well made, old-school cocktails are served and people might linger at the bar for hours,” he adds.
If the old-school vibe conjures images of smoke-laden air, sticky vinyl seats and sagging ceiling tiles, think again. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’s earthy palette of concrete, steel, and wood―highlighted with warm washes of soft golden light―sets a sociable tone with a splash of sophistication. And, at 3,200 sq. ft., the 1930s former bag factory offers an intimate drinking and dining experience (and a spacious roof-top deck) that distinguishes it from the ever-popular expansive craft beer halls populating the city.
Up front, overlooking a street-side patio, a long curving peninsula bar welcomes patrons with its richly textured pyramidal concrete surface that modulates under the glow of LEDs concealed under the counter. “We purposely wanted people to sit and discover the details over time,” says Andrews. Above, an undulating stainless steel soffit with a dusky blue patina delineates the bar area and the dining area beyond. The soffit over the front bar does double duty as storage for 90 plus varieties of whiskey. The amber-hued bottles and the muscular Perlick stainless beer taps are the centerpieces of the back bar design.
For the booths and banquettes, covered in a vivid Wedgewood-blue fabric, Arch11 borrowed language from Mies van der Rohe’s iconic 1929 Barcelona chair by adding button tufting at the seat back cushions. Minimal, yet elegant details like this one elevate the atmosphere beyond the ordinary drinking establishment while introducing a subtle air of nostalgia. Banner Media conceived of the wall-applied photo murals of Denver in the 1930s and ‘40s which add to the narrative. Even the ubiquitous TVs fade into the background with their own graphic display of historic photos and menu items.
A floor-to-ceiling wall comprised of staggered wood slats (a riff on barrel staves) and Edison-style bulbs in exposed socket pendants provide a homey, vintage feel while screening the industrial stair to the upper level open-air bar. Reclaimed oak table tops, comfy stools and a second well-stocked bar welcome rooftop revelers. Strings of bistro lights, hung between steel columns, create a festive party atmosphere.
“My goal was to have an atmosphere that was unique, like Prospect Park, and that spoke to the history of the area. I think they did a great job fulfilling that vision,” says Tavern Hospitality Group owner and CEO Frank Schultz.
Additional new Denver restaurant projects coming from Arch11 in the near future will span the culinary globe, including a Nuevo Mexican taco bar in the space formerly occupied by D Bar and an Oyster/Seafood concept in one of Cherry Creek’s tony new developments. In between these cultured concepts are plans for a juice bar in a repurposed Boulder service station to complement the micro-juice trend.