Glenwood’s Springs bar and grill gets a facelift
MAY, 12 2009
BY JOHN COLSON
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, CO COLORADO
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado— Rob and Cyndie Rightmire have made the transition from annual tourists and regular visitors, to owners of a pair of venerable watering holes in downtown Glenwood Springs. In doing so, they have bet their combined commercial fates on the continued vitality of the two businesses — The Springs Downtown Bar & Grill and the Doc Holliday’s Saloon — and of the town as a whole.
And now the two relatively recent transplants from California have raised the ante on that bet, with a floor-toceiling renovation of the Springs, which has been in business as a bar and restaurant since 1974, and a community gathering place since it was built in 1904.The bar, located at 722 Grand Ave., is to be the scene of a grand opening party this weekend, starting on May 14 at 4 p.m. and continuing for the following two days, more or less, where the Rightmires plan to show off the changes and welcome the community.
Table service will no longer be available in the balcony area, because the couple feel it is too hard to keep an eye on what goes on up there and believe that some rather questionable activities have occurred there in the past. It may, instead, become the bandstand for occasional live music entertainment.
Beyond that, the changes to the space will be a combination of furnishings — an 1885-vintage bar obtained in an Illinois antiques warehouse, with a foot rail featuring unique, elephant-head supports, is the most remarkable addition — and fare, such as the fact that patrons can select from a list of 24 beers on tap from all over the world.
But, Rob was quick to note, Doc Holliday’s will remain just as it has — a hallowed monument to the region’s western heritage and one of its most beloved historical ne’er-do-wells, the gunslinging dentist John “Doc” Holliday, as well as a popular hangout for long-time locals and tourists alike.
“Doc’s is perfect,” Rob declared, adding that whenever he sits down in the saloon, “I always feel proud, and I always feel good.”
The Rightmires moved to Glenwood Springs after they bought the Springs business in August 2001.
They had been coming to the area on ski vacations for years, and had come to consider the Springs as a somewhat distant version of their neighborhood bar, and when they learned in 2000 that it was for sale, they jumped at the chance. They had consulted with a friend who owned several restaurant/bar establishments, and he had both urged them to buy the business and had hired them as cook (Rob, who is 45) and manager (Cyndie, 34) to give them some on-the-job training before they went out on their own. “We basically gambled, we just rolled the dice,” Rob told the Post Independent. “If something’s been there for 25 years, and you come in and it fails, you shouldn’t be in the businesses.”
But it hasn’t failed. Instead, their empire grew. In 2005, they bought Doc’s next door, building and all, partly as a fall-back in case they lost their lease on the Springs building. Then, in 2008, they were able to buy the Springs building as well.And that’s when they got serious about renovating the dilapidated premises, which local historians say has done service as everything from a poker hall to a jewelry store over the decades. It also is believed to have once been
much larger, encompassing the space that became Doc Holliday’s in the early 1900s.
To start with, the Rightmires pulled up three layers of ancient linoleum and put down historic barn wood flooring to keep the rustic feel of the place intact. And they found the huge bar, which sat in saloons in Lincoln and Springfield, Ill., before being relegated to an antiques dealer’s warehouse. They also made a few changes to the kitchen equipment, and other upgrades.
The ceiling has been painted for now, but Rob intends to install a traditional tin ceiling once their bank account recovers from the work they’ve already done.
On the service side, they’ll be offering lunches and dinners, featuring Black Angus steaks as a specialty item and “just great food in general,” said Cyndie. The general idea is for the Springs to become a sports bar heavy with western atmosphere, and for Doc Holliday’s to hold onto its own special business niche, pulling in families, tourists and locals.As for their faith in Glenwood’s future, Cyndie noted, “The downtown’s got to keep on thriving. People have got
to keep on putting effort into it.”