Exclusive: Frank Bonanno will open Vesper Lounge in the former Lancer Lounge space

FandJLancer.jpg
Lori Midson
Frank and Jacqueline Bonanno stand in the gutted Lancer Lounge, which will soon become Vesper Lounge.

When longtime owner Becky Conda was evicted from the Lancer Lounge, the dive bar that resides between Bones and Mizuna, earlier this month, it seemed only natural that Frank and Jacqueline Bonanno, who own those restaurants, along with Luca d'Italia, Osteria Marco, Lou's Food Bar, Wednesday's Pie, Green Russell and Russell's Smokehouse, would snatch up the space, and last Friday, the Bonannos did exactly that, inking a lease on the former neighborhood watering hole, which they'll reopen as Vesper Lounge.

See also:

- Lancer Lounge gets evicted and will close tomorrow at 2 p.m.
- Lancer Lounge seized by State of Colorado for back taxes

And it's been a long time coming for Frank, who opened Mizuna twelve years ago and recognized the appeal of putting his indelible stamp on a block where his name is synonymous with success. "It's something that Jacqueline and I have been interested in for a really long time," admits Frank, who sat down with me this morning, just before his staff pilates class. In fact, he offered to buy the Lancer on numerous occasions, even offering a partnership to Conda at one point, which she refused.

And while the Bonannos could do another restaurant in that space, they've chosen to keep it a bar, albeit a bar that won't reek of stale beer. "This isn't going to be a restaurant," stresses Frank. "It's going to be a neighborhood bar -- a clean bar -- where our guests and industry folks can come in after dinner or work, have a drink and relax."

That's not to say say that the existing kitchen won't dispense food -- it will -- but Frank emphasizes that the focus will be on libations. "We want this to be like a Cheers bar, so we'll have a few burgers on the menu and some fries, but food is an incidental," he says.

Adam Hodak, who oversees all of Frank's bar programs, will also oversee the beverage syllabus at Vesper, which, by the way, is the original gin martini that was invented and named by James Bond in the 1953 novel Casino Royale. And while there won't be a cocktail list to speak of, Hodak will create a trio of signature cocktails that'll be dispensed from an old-fashioned fountain. "We'll have a really nice well selection, and it'll mostly be a 'you call it' kind of place, but Adam will do three cocktails that will essentially be on tap," Frank notes, adding, too, that the bar will pour six drought beers and have a selection of ten to fifteen bottles and cans. And the prices, he promises, will be low. "We're keeping everything inexpensive."

Location Info

Vesper Lounge

233 E. 7th Ave., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant


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24 comments
c.a.esker
c.a.esker

Lets get this place open! I need my neighborhood spot back. Sick of going to the fainting goat even though I enjoy the rooftop.

okeydokey
okeydokey

RIP "LL."

 

@FoodieINden: Bonanno is a hack.

 

Yes, the residents of Denver do not know good eating and need to travel more. Great restaurants and chefs ie. NYC, SF do not dictate the food scene in those fabulous foodcities, the patrons do. COMPLETELY the opposite in Denver, folks accept what they're served and don't demand better quality or variety.

 

Personally, I'm over the local mainstream offerings of porkbelly, beets, sweet potatos, kale, sea bass, $15+ burgers. Anone else agree?? Moreover, the price of the subpar Denver menu is often = to prix fixe menus of a few of my favorite, brilliant-- well deserving -- nyc establishments such 'Le Bernardin' and 'La Grenouille.'

 

Bottom line: the food scene in Denver is non existent. Denver will not have gorgeous food offerings until the people of Denver demand more. Demanding more means STOP frequently obliging the copious number of  Bonanno joints (the Lancer Lounge space will be #8 of Bonanno Concepts), that pander to the middle brow, anticipated, lowered expectations Denver 'foodie' customer.

SarahBee
SarahBee

This sits a little strange to me...if Bonanno kept offering to buy the place and even partner with her, why would she just sit there and lose everything she ever worked for by letting it get seized?

jb303
jb303

The only reason hipsters and homeless people are upset is because Lancer was pouring FREE alcohol! Obviously turned out to be a bad business plan. They're just going to have to find another shitty bar with "power hour".

Sarah Colfax Murphy
Sarah Colfax Murphy

I have never been as drunk off of $25 as I had been at the Lancer, only thing keeping you sorta straight were the painful ass booths. :'(

Charlie Whiskey
Charlie Whiskey

So... Not a place where you can drop $20 and get blacked out, huh.

joey murdah
joey murdah

I'm just wondering what *won't break the bank* really means, considering it sits on this block and will now be run by Bonanno.

 

I liked being able to go to the Lancer and get a cheap drink while i was waiting for a table at Bones. I'll wait to pass judgement, but Lancer Lounge was super nice on the wallet.

ninja69
ninja69

It could be worse. It could be changed to "The Tavern Capitol Hill". Where douche meatheads come to fuck your hipster girlfriend.

Holly Elkins
Holly Elkins

Of course he will. Really unfortuante Lancer got pushed out. Sorry Frank I won't be visiting Vesper even though I'm a big fan of your restaurants.

FoodieINden
FoodieINden

Bonanno is a total hack.  I'm sure he stole this concept from another bar in the East Village, just like he did Wednesday's Pie and Green Russel (See Crif Dog - Please Don't Tell  http://nymag.com/listings/bar/pdt/

 

Quoted from the king turd himself: (And if you're wondering if Bonanno is going to take over the space, which would obviously make sense, he asserts that it's way too early in the process to even think about it. "I have no idea," he says).

 

I will never go to another Bonanno joint. Period.  Denver has been losing far too many of these old school, throw-back bars, it's a shame.  Another bar that will turn into a cookie-cutter, hipster hangout. 

 

@FrankBonanno  . . . you've been called out. 

Jeff
Jeff

 @FoodieINden  @FrankBonanno What a completely ridiculous comment by FoodieINden.  I don't know if Bonanno is a jerk or not, but there are always a few jealous industry folks who turn up to say so whenever he has a new venture. 

 

Frank Bonanno didn't close the Lancer Lounge.  It closed because the owner didn't pay her taxes.  She has nothing but nice things to say about Bonanno and even transferred the liquor license to him to expedite things.

 

There is no "concept" that Bonanno is trying to emulate here.  I can only assume that you didn't actually read the article.  If you had, you wouldn't have made the assinine comment that this was going to turn into a "cookie-cutter, hipster hangout."  The article makes it pretty clear that this is not The Green Russell.  Draft beer, you-call booze, burgers and fries, no cocktail list, TVs and Pac-Man.  Sounds pretty much like the "old school throw-back bar" you're pining for to me.

 

Again, I have no idea what Bonanno is like in real life.  I do know that every one of his establishments has offered me some of the highest quality food and service I've had in Denver.  These are locally owned businesses that care about quality, do things the right way, don't cut corners, and are good for Denver's economy.  I'm happy to see an enterprise like that expanding.

eldaveablo
eldaveablo

 @FoodieINden  @FrankBonanno Wow, really? Are you going to blame him for them not paying taxes too? And he stole the idea for a cheap neighborhood bar that serves burgers? Boy, he had to really dig deep into the East Village to pillage that original idea. And during the hurricane too. How DARE he? Are these concepts original? No, and he's said as much.  Much like calling yourself a foodie and looking for reasons to get butt-hurt aren't exactly original. 

Jeff
Jeff

 @jennikoa Yeah, there's nothing like an vacant storefront and abandoned bar to stimulate the economy.  They should have just left it vacant for a year in homage to the Lancer employees that lost their jobs rather than opening a new place that will create more jobs.

Mantonat
Mantonat topcommenter

 @jennikoa What's the proper mourning time for a dive bar? Seems like the sooner a new business gets started in a vacant location, the sooner hardworking industry folks start getting paychecks.

FoodieINden
FoodieINden

 @Jeff 

 

Wow, talk about a bunch of Bonanno apologists.  Do you guys walk his dog and wash his car for him too.

 

The fact is  the guy completely lied about it in the first article the Westword published.  Soley based on that, I don't trust anything else the guy does otherwise.  

 

I'm sorry Jeff, not to get in a battle of semantics here with you, but he is emulating a concept.  Whether you want consider in mainstream or cutting edge is really up to you.  

 

Am I the only person in Denver that doesn't fall for these over-hyped concepts?  I mean really people, do some traveling for God's sake.

Mantonat
Mantonat topcommenter

 @FoodieINden  @Jeff I have no issues with your lack of interest in Bonanno's "concepts." I actually find it really annoying when people in the bar and restaurant business refer to bars and restaurants as concepts, as in his quote in this article, "It's nice to control all of the concepts on one block." Based on that quote, I can see why people would be annoyed with him.

 

I do disagree with this: "I will never go to another Bonanno joint. Period.  Denver has been losing far too many of these old school, throw-back bars, it's a shame.  Another bar that will turn into a cookie-cutter, hipster hangout." I don't think it makes me a Bonanno apologist to wonder how you blame him for the Lancer shutting down. I also don't think it's unreasonable for a new owner to update a place that was failing to make money. I also don't think Bonanno makes cookie-cutter hangouts. The updates to the Lancer may not suit your personality, but I don't think he's done anything to this point that comes close to soulless suckholes of the Tavern chain.

 

 

FoodieINden
FoodieINden

 @Jeff Really?

 

In that I case I have a bridge for sale.  Interested?

Jeff
Jeff

 @FoodieINden So is the opening of any restaurant or bar of any kind "emulating a concept" then?  It sure sounds like it by your definition.

 

Also, you have absolutely no reason to believe that Bonanno wasn't being completely sincere when he said he had no idea if he would take over the Lancer space or not.  It was obvious that he's wanted to for a long time (why wouldn't he), but at the time that comment was made, there was no way he could have started formal negotiations to take over the lease.

 

Sounds to me like you've got some sort of personal history with the guy.

Mantonat
Mantonat topcommenter

 @jennikoa Are you new to this thing called the internet? Did you not consider the fact that you called Frank Bonanno a douchebag "for all the world to see?" For the record, I am not the one doing the name-calling. I'm just using the functionality that's designed into this website. See where the little button reads "Reply?" I don't know what you expected when you posted your comment, but responses, both positive and negative, are not a recent invention.

Mantonat
Mantonat topcommenter

 @jennikoa This is exactly the place to express your opinion. It's also exactly the place where people will disagree if they think you are wrong.

Mantonat
Mantonat topcommenter

 @jennikoa Bonanno didn't shut the bar down; a failure to pay taxes shut the bar down. Calling him names isn't going to change the fact that his businesses employ a lot of people and create a lot of revenue. If you want to point fingers at who is responsible for Lancer Lounge former employees being out of work, look elsewhere.

eldaveablo
eldaveablo

 @jennikoa Of course they matter, but I don't know why keeping the place closed for no apparent reason helps anyone. 

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