Last call at the Nob Hill: From Kerouac to Dylan, the stories go on
Westword writers recently covered a day at the Nob Hill Inn, a classic dive at 420 East Colfax Avenue, from open to close. Here's Jason Sheehan's nightcap to the project.
Sitting at the bar, off-duty weekend bartender Randy Malone pointed out the regulars, the friends, the off-duty employees drinking away their Tuesday nights and buying drinks. He gave me a little bit of the history of the Nob Hill; told me that it's the oldest bar in Capitol Hill, open since the 1930s, and that it used to have a restaurant attached once. A kind of diner.
"Guys would come here, get a cheeseburger or a sandwich next door, and then come to the bar for drinks," Randy explained. Then one day, the restaurant half of Nob Hill just vanished. A wall went up, and then there was just the bar. Of course, the place still serves food, he reminded me. Frozen Tombstone pizza for anyone who asks.
Randy told me about Jack Kerouac drinking here back in the day. Everyone talks about Kerouac drinking here. He told me how the Nob Hill was one of Jack's places, one of his haunts. He even quoted me a few lines that have nothing to do with this place at all.
Bob Dylan has made the scene, too. Twice. After shows at the Fillmore. Everyone talks about Dylan as well. Maybe not as much as Kerouac, but still. Every place has its hierarchy.
"He just came in and hung out," Randy told me, talking about Dylan. "He was comfortable here."
Down the bar, Charles talked about growing up in Denver, in the neighborhoods. He talked about the restaurants that are still there, and many more that are long, long gone. I asked Walter the doorman how he ended up at the Nob Hill, and he talked about the days he spent with one of the mining companies up in the hills, about getting laid off and finding his way down to Capitol Hill, Colfax and this bar.
At the Nob Hill, everyone has a story. Everyone loves telling them, especially to someone new, with new ears, new appreciation -- and when the drinks are coming. Draft beers with foaming heads, shots of whiskey in proper glasses, Jager and ouzo and whatever other particular poison whoever's buying has chosen. Drinks get drunk, new ones set up. People rotate out the back door for cigarettes in shifts.
And the stories keep going on and on.