Pete's Monkey Bar offers a friendly haven on the 'Fax

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Pete and his Monkey Bar
There's a new watering hole on Colfax. Sort of. Pete's Monkey Bar, 717 East Colfax Avenue, opened October 2 in the space formerly occupied by Dulcinea's 100th Monkey, the jazz-turned-jam club that was owned by Jay, Phil and Aric Bianchi (the three brothers who are also the force behind Sanchos's Broken Arrow, Owsley's Golden Road, Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom, and Quixote's).

The spot now belongs to Pete Penzenstadler, who's hardly a stranger to the 'Fax, considering he spent the past nine years slinging drinks and chatting up the barflies at Sancho's.

Penzenstadler had always dreamed of having his own joint, and when the brothers contemplated selling Dulcinea's in May, Penzenstadler was quick to voice his interest. As for competing with his former employers, he says, "There isn't really a sense of competition. I worked there for nine years, they're family to me." Like its predecessor, Pete's Monkey Bar offers live music, but only on Friday and Saturday nights.There are visible differences as well.

The walls have been painted bright, warm colors and the dilapidated frat-house furniture has been removed. And the space is noticeably cleaner, especially the bathrooms, which were given a facelift and a new paint job by Penzenstadler's wife, Belle. Although it's lost the dingy feeling of a dive bar, the space is still comfortable and inviting, thanks to Penzenstadler, who's witty, quick with a drink and a hug and a familiar face to his regulars. Years in the business have left him with a brash sense of humor, and there's always a mischievous smile on his bearded face.

"I wanted it to be a place that I would want to drink at, a place with a fun atmosphere, cheap drinks and good music," Penzenstadler explains. He's done a solid job of creating all three. The cocktails are served in pint glasses -- and make no mistake: Penzenstadler has a heavy hand. He offers a great happy hour, which runs Monday through Saturday, 5 p.m. till 8 p.m. and includes 2-for-1 draft beers (except Guinness) and $3.50 well drinks (double-talls in the pints). PBR is always available for $1.25 a can, and the tenders serve free snacks on the bar during happy hour. In addition to live music, Thursdays are open mic nights, and on the nights where there's no live jive, music is played from a database behind the bar -- a database that contains thousands of tunes ranging from heavy metal and reggae to Sesame Street's Greatest Hits. Penzenstadler is always willing to play his customer's music as well, provided that they have an iPod he can plug into his system.

The pub is off to a fun start, and Penzenstadler has more plans in the works for Pete's Monkey Bar. He'd like to incorporate a comedy night, and after the first of the year, The Food Guy Catering Company will be providing upscale bar food during the week. For now, Penzenstadler is just enjoying his first venture as a business owner. "I love the people who come in here. They're fun, they make everything I'm doing worthwhile, and I'm honored that they've chosen this place as somewhere they want to hang out," he tells me.


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