To people outside the community, another bar closing is just a sad COVID-19 statistic and another demolition permit is just a regular week in Denver’s rapidly changing landscape. To almost anyone who walked through the doors of Local 46, this closing is different.
Andy Carlson of the Highland Ramblers walked through those doors frequently. “Having music there brought people together,” said Carlson. For the Ramblers, regulars in Denver’s live music scene, Local 46 has a special place. “A couple years ago we released a new CD. We’d never done a CD release party before. We knew people would show up. We knew people would be there. It was a blast to play there, but it also meant a lot to the community.”
One of the things Local 46 is best known for is owner Niya Gingerich’s dedication to community and eagerness to use the bar to help whenever she could. Elizabeth Rodriguez is a cancer survivor who was looking for a good location for a fundraiser for First Descents, an organization that raises money to give other young survivors outdoor adventures like rock climbing or surfing. While some venues just see events as a revenue stream, Rodriguez knew Gingerich was different. “She was so great to work with,” said Rodriguez. “She was really amazing. She tried to maximize the amount of money for the organization.”
On a post announcing the closure, hundreds of Local 46 lovers chimed in with stories about school fundraisers, their favorite bands, and memorable nights at their local water hole. At least one neighbor said they chose their home in part because of proximity to the venue and nightlife. The post’s views are in the tens of thousands. With a diverse, enthusiastic fanbase, it might seem likely that a bar like Local 46 could survive but, to borrow a phrase, winter is coming.
Niya Gingerich, who has run Local 46 for almost 9 years, said their revenue is down 60% in the pandemic. Over the summer, they’ve managed to keep going because of the beautiful and popular Biergarten with outdoor seating and an outdoor stage for periodic concerts, but she knows that without indoor seating those days are numbered. “We’re all dreading winter,” explained Gingerich.
For Gingerich, leaving Local 46 is about more than leaving a business; it’s about “the music and the dancing. It was such a special place seeing everyone moving and grooving. It was about the culture and the team to make it special.” Gingerich also wanted the community who supported them to know that as tenants who don’t own the property she isn’t selling and cashing in. “It’s hard to know after 10 years of a really successful concept that we didn’t have a business to sell. I would never choose to have it go away.” Gingerich is planning on spending more time with her two year old daughter and will take some time off but is interested in another community focused business down the road.
With just over a year left on their 10 year lease, both Gingerich and the property owners said they came to the only agreement they could financially. Jeff Laws of Berkeley Park Partners LLC who owns the property sent an update to interested parties early September. “This is a tragic situation, but they had planned limited winter hours after the patio season finished. Considering the potential liability for a virus hazardous tenancy not able to pay rent, we agreed to opt for closure.” The owners were granted a demolition permit back in May and will be bringing it to market soon.
Local 46 won’t be closing until the end of October, however, and Gingerich hopes to enjoy the time with the community. She still has several special events outdoor permits for the year and plans on using all of them. “We’re going to go out with as much live music as we can.”
To see their live music lineup, check out Local46.com.