Campus Lounge will reopen, again, but with a new name

A team of 13 bar owners who have seen success in Denver’s Highland hope to be the ones to save Campus Lounge, which has changed hands three times in two years in the Bonnie Brae neighborhood.

The last two versions of the 40-plus-year-old bar lasted less than six and nine months, respectively.

But the owners of LoHi’s Recess Beer Garden have leased the building and started remodeling the space with plans to reopen by mid-December. They’re giving the bar a “summer camp” feel, according to co-owner Owen Olson.

Playing off the youthful nature of Recess, they’ll decorate the Lounge in 1970s “outdoor camping” decor, and they’ll turn a side dining room into a game area.

“Most of our ownership group grew up in this neighborhood,” Olson said. “We remember going in here with our parents and running around.”

Nostalgia has played a major role in the Campus Lounge’s multiple revivals since its longtime owner and All-American University of Denver hockey player and Blackhawks veteran, Jim Wiste, died in early 2018. Vic Romer was the original owner, in the 1960s, of the bar by the same name.

Shortly before Wiste’s death, in 2017, local restaurateur Dan Landes took over the business and cleaned up the sports bar, adding in a creative food menu and — controversially — removing the bar’s TVs. Reviews of the Campus Lounge’s new direction were mixed, if not confused.

Then, following Landes’ departure, father-and-son partners Dan and Jeff Nickless tried to reinstate a “living room atmosphere” to the bar and also reinstall some 14 flatscreens. Their experiment lasted nearly nine months, closing in July.

Now the Recess team is stepping in, and keeping the televisions but going for a particular mix of campy steakhouse and kids’ arcade. The food and drink menus will focus on “cheaper” beef cuts and cocktails, as well as pitchers of beer and an “old-school” salad bar, Olson said.