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The Bar brings new polish to a formerly tarnished spot on South Broadway

Some shots of The Bar, a new nightspot in Denver at 554 S. Broadway
Some shots of The Bar, a new nightspot in Denver at 554 S. Broadway
photo by Jeffery Hoyle

The Bar


In an ideal world, there is that perfect little bar in every neighborhood. A friendly staff is always ready to greet you when you walk in the door, the beer is cold, the drinks are strong and the snacks are always appetizing. There’s a jukebox on the wall, a couple of pool tables, and a small stage for live acts. In an ideal world…this sounds like a pretty great little neighborhood bar.

The Bar located at 554 S. Broadway
photo by Jeffery Hoyle

Now brace yourself, because such a bar really does exist. Presenting, The Bar. A simple name perhaps, but with a business plan that includes future expansion into other areas of Denver, make The Bar anything but simple. Chosen by Westword magazine for inclusion in its coveted 2012 “Best Of” issue, The Bar is fast becoming a new force in the Denver bar scene to be reckoned with.

Located at 554 South Broadway, The Bar chose a location that has long been an address of dubious distinction, thanks to its former tenant. In its previous incarnation as “The Atrium,” the location was plagued by sketchy management and a questionable clientele; obstacles that were difficult to overcome with their potential new neighbors. With some determination, old fashioned elbow grease, and…yes, a bit of capital, new owners Ray Rodriguez and Phil Vilotti have managed to turn the proverbial sow’s ear into a silk purse.

“You know you are doing something right when (neighbors) stop in to thank you for cleaning up a space in their block,” says co-owner Ray Rodriguez. “We walked the neighborhood and met the neighbors, jus to get our faces out there. That was important to getting the business off the ground.”

“Our premise for The Bar is simple,” he continues. “We want it to be a place where everyone feels comfortable. Regardless of sex, age, race, gender or sexual orientation, we want our patrons to feel at home, and according to most of them they do.”

The Bar does its best to offer a little something for everyone. With a myriad of nightly events that range from Texas Hold‘em poker nights, to screenings of horror films; from live blues band jams to open mike performance nights; from drag shows to “Manicures & Martini’s” Mondays, and the ever popular Goldfish Races (which must be seen to be really appreciated), there is truly an event for just about every patrons taste.

“Our patrons are from all walks of life, and socio-economic backgrounds,” say Rodriguez. “Television producers, accounts, blue collar, you name it, they stop by our bar.”

For Rodriguez and Vilotti, the decision to start their own business was fairly easy; in spite of the still-sluggish economic conditions. Both had spent 20+ years in corporate America before making the leap into entrepreneurship. And they haven’t looked back yet.

“We both had great jobs that gave us a lot of creative and financial control,” says Rodriguez, “but it just wasn’t fulfilling. Now working 80-90 hours a week has some reward, because the payback comes to us, not some corporation.”

Partners in business and in life, Rodriguez and Vilotti both agree that the image of a business is the key to success. Both work hard to maintain the integrity of the brand they are creating, and ultimately planning on expanding. Together both bring their unique skill sets to the table, and make it work exceptionally well.

“Your business is a reflection of who you are,” says Rodriguez. “Every thing in the bar, from the decorations on the wall to the drinks we serve is a reflection of us. The rewards you get from a business are only as good as the effort you put into it.”

Vilotti gives his perspective in a similar but slightly different perspective. After a small misstep in their early days, both feel they have hit their stride with their business.

“Follow your gut from the beginning,” he says, “don’t second-guess yourself. It’s important to be true to your concept as well as true to yourself.”

The Bar is located at 554 S. Broadway in Denver. For more information on hours and upcoming special events, visit their website at or call (303) 733-0122.

UPDATE: The Bar closed its doors in early 2013.