Lights Out – Strike Three for the Campus Lounge

The new ‘old version’ of the Campus Lounge reopened in the fall of 2018. After a return to the original sports themed bar and restaurant, local patrons were greeted with a hastily written note on the front door – “Closed Until Further Notice.”

Campus Lounge 3 Closed 2

The Bonnie Brae mainstay has now closed for a third time in three years after a long run under former DU hockey playing alum Jim Wiste, beginning in the 70’s.

Jeff Nickless, a DU alum, operated the recent version of the Campus Lounge along with his father, Dan since October 2018. Unfortunately, it appears they were unable to operate the business at an acceptable profit level. The Nickless family embraced the former Wiste era, returned the building to a Denver sports themed bar and restaurant, delivered a solid casual dining experience and received excellent reviews on Yelp.

Jason O., like many of the other reviewers on Yelp, had positive things to say about the operation, “The service is excellent, prompt and polite. The food is cooked well, flavorful and spiced perfectly. It is very reasonably priced. The atmosphere is inviting. There are screens everywhere with every game you can think of to watch.”

The exact cause of the failure is not clear. The initial successor to Wiste, Dan Landes, tried targeting a younger, hipper demographic with a new age menu but that concept fell flat. During Landes’ tenure, the building was closed for nearly a year for extensive interior remodeling. However, the iconic exterior of the business remained unchanged with bold Campus Lounge signage along University and Exposition Avenues. Landes was shortly followed by Jeff and Dan Nickless who had a third go at operating the bar located at 701 South University Avenue. But, their dream of reviving the sports themed restaurant and bar came to an abrupt end this past weekend.

A lack of rebranding and marketing may have hurt the most recent effort to relaunch the Campus Lounge. Limited parking has always been an issue at this location as well. Several changes in ownership and two extended closures may have impacted consumers dining and drinking routines in the neighborhood. Rising costs of real estate, rent and wages are playing havoc with many Denver area restaurants and bars. And maybe, Jim Wiste took the old Campus Lounge as far as it could go.

Whatever the reason(s), we are sorry to see a DU alum, family and employees pour their hearts into this iconic south Denver establishment only to have it fail.

The Campus Lounge website confirmed the unfortunate news, “Campus Lounge has closed for business.”

2 thoughts on “Lights Out – Strike Three for the Campus Lounge”

  1. Sorry to hear about this. Respect to Landes, who tried something new, that in my opinion was good. Respect to the last owners, for trying to revive the old Campus spirit. I think both efforts were tall tasks for the owners. Landes had the task of making a bold move in an old standby. The last owners probably lost a lot of momentum with the big delay before Landes opened, the closing after Landes, and then trying to get people back in. I think the spirit of the Campus had kind of died by that point. And the effort to make it sportsy and differentiate itself from Landes with the Roy and Elway jerseys on the walls fell flat (at least it did for me.) Found myself wanting to support the place, but I was never motivated to go. ANYWAY…what’s next? I do hope someone tries again, keeps the name, keeps the sign, and has an otherwise innovative plan. I think that plan will have to involve opening the place up, re-doing the exterior, and putting a few windows in the place. (One reason I rarely went, is that when passing or riding by, I couldn’t see inside and couldn’t tell if I would be the only one in the bar if I went in!)

  2. Sad that they could not make a go of it. Certainly, the loss of the primary customer base when the place went dark for A WHOLE YEAR after Wiste sold it was probably the biggest reason. People found new places to go, and they didn’t come back.

    However, I don’t envy anyone opening a Tavern today The neighborhood tavern is dying all over America, especially in neighborhoods where foot traffic is minimal and parking is tight. Also, drinking habits have changed a lot over the years – the rising costs, the increased health concerns and tougher DUI laws have changed the drinking behavior of many people, and the taverns’ margins are the ones squeezed the most, since they don’t have large corporations behind them.

    RIP

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