Pete’s Satire Lounge, one of Denver’s iconic dive bars and a landmark on East Colfax Avenue, is reopening after nearly a year of closure.
Its neon sign, which for six decades has beckoned customers of all stripes, will light back up for the public on Saturday, Feb. 20, manager Alex Barakos said this week. After that, the bar will be open from 5 to 11 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.
“I’ll be bartending myself personally on Saturday,” said Barakos, 22, the grandson of founder Pete Contos.
News of the reopening was first reported by Westword on Tuesday.
Along with Pete’s Kitchen, located just to the east at Colfax and Race Street, the Satire is one of the most visible remnants of a restaurant-and-bar empire that once floated entire parts of the city. Contos, who died in 2019, also founded Pete’s Central One and Pete’s University Park, as well as the now-shuttered Pete’s Greek Town (a 2020 victim of the coronavirus pandemic) and Pete’s Gyros Place (closed in 2019).
So why is Pete’s Satire reopening now, in mid-February?
“Getting back to a 50-person capacity indoors was huge,” Barakos said. “And I went out to explore the bar scene on Colfax last weekend and thought, ‘This is slowly coming back, and I think this is right time.’ Before, if we’d opened in May or August last year, we might have had to shut down again. But I think people are ready now, and we’re ready for them.”
Unlike Pete’s Kitchen, which has stayed open almost every day for the last few decades, Pete’s Central One and Pete’s University Cafe lack the brand recognition to drive consistent business during this dark time, Barakos said. That has led to decreased revenues, although Barakos is loathe to raise his prices much — despite others in the industry doing the same.
“They’re struggling quite a bit right now,” he said of Pete’s Central One and Pete’s University Cafe. “I tell people, ‘If you were just breaking even before the pandemic, there’s no way it’s a good idea to expand during the pandemic.’ But once this all passes, I don’t see why there’s a reason not to expand. I’m just looking to get smarter before we get larger again.”
Reevaluating the business fits snugly with Barakos’ hotel and restaurant management degree, which he earned in May from the University of Northern Arizona. But he also wants to honor his grandfather’s considerable Denver legacy, since Contos lorded over that stretch of East Colfax from the mid-20th century until his death.
“I oversee everything at Pete’s Kitchen and have learned a ton,” Barakos said. “I want to give that personal experience and touch. My grandfather started Pete’s Satire with a good personality and a will to make good drinks, and a lot came from it. So I’m planning to build on his legacy while creating my own.”
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