south Denver bar shuts down for third time

The Campus Lounge, the beloved south Denver bar that has changed hands three times in as many years, has closed again, according to its website.

“Campus Lounge has closed for business,” read the home page at “We appreciate your support along the way.”

Calls and emails to the bar were not returned Monday morning. A voicemail recording gave no indication of the closure.

The building at 701 S. University Boulevard originally housed the Bellaire Restaurant, which was bought by Vic Romer in the 1960s and renamed the Campus Lounge. Jim Wiste, a popular local athlete, took over the bar in the 1970s and ran it as a sports bar and neighborhood hangout until 2016. Wiste died in early 2018 at the age of 71.

Daniel Landes, who founded the Watercourse and City O’ City vegetarian restaurants, took over in late 2017 with the promise of updating the decor and food and drink menus for a younger, hipper clientele. He did, and it closed less than six months later. Landes speculated he had alienated the bar’s longtime customers by failing to invoke the Campus Lounge’s sports-centric legacy.

However, the bar only sat empty for a few months, with new owner Jeff Nickless promising to return it to its sports-happy ways by honoring Wiste’s memory. Nickless installed a new, gold-hued plaque on the exterior that read “Jim Wiste: 1946-2018. A Denver Legend. Gone But Never Forgotten.”

Nickless and his father Dan Nickless, a father-son team with deep roots in the Bonnie Brae neighborhood, largely duplicated the layout of Landes’ version after they bought the 81-year-old building, even hanging onto the vintage Pac-Man machine. They also added $12 cocktails and vegetarian options to the menu.

But despite balancing that with familiar decor — including Broncos and Avalanche jerseys lining the walls around the 14 flatscreen TVs, and game-day comfort food like chili cheese fries, nachos, onion rings and hot wings from former Cap City kitchen manager Shayden Ward — the bar never regained its former glory.

“It’s unfortunate that one of the only reasons I have a job is because of those horrible statistics in the independent restaurant segment, with nearly 30 percent (of restaurants) gone in the first year, and 80 or 90 percent by year five,” said interim general manager Alex Kaulbach, a 47-year-old restaurant consultant, last fall. “Generally, it’s undercapitalization that will kill them. And people tend to forget the details.”

Other than social media and scattered press, the Campus Lounge did not run a targeted marketing campaign to announce its rebirth in October 2018, relying instead of word-of-mouth, social media and curious passersby, Kaulbach said at the time.