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El Tejano, Loaded and Smash Face Brewing open on Denver’s Market Street

At the grand opening of his new 25,000-square-foot entertainment venues in Denver’s Ballpark neighborhood, Knitting Factory Entertainment CEO Morgan Margolis wondered aloud if this destination would inevitably turn into another LoDo frat house.

He really hopes not.

On Market Street early this month, Margolis and his business partners debuted three new-to-Denver concepts: El Tejano Tex-Mex, Loaded nightclub and Smash Face Brewing. Together they can pack in nearly 1,000 revelers and provide epic views of Coors Field.

The Ballpark venues come complete with a rooftop tap wall, lounge seating overlooking Rockies’ stadium, “Texas-sized” 36-ounce margaritas, a dance floor, Skee-Ball, in-house brewery and basketball hoops. What more could anyone ask for?

El Tejano staffs three separate bars (in addition to that tap wall), Smash Face donates a portion of its beer proceeds to dog shelters (very sweet, hence the breed-referencing name), and Loaded feels like a swanky nightclub while also featuring a stage for small live acts and sets.

The latter is something the Knitting Factory knows a thing or two about.

That brand got its start in Brooklyn in 1987 and has since opened two other self-titled music halls in Boise and Tacoma, Wash., while the company has expanded to own and manage more venues across the country, as well as booking festivals and events.

Unfortunately, its influence on the U.S. music scene stops short of Denver, where larger players keep competition out.

So while the Knitting Factory has built a reputation that’s niche, trend-setting and understated in its music endeavors, this new LoDo half-block appears to be the opposite: all-encompassing, trend-following and oversized by comparison. Which is to say, don’t come expecting a more alternative destination in Ballpark.

The new restaurant, nightclub and brewery replaced Tavern Downtown, Cowboy Lounge and Cook Street School of Culinary Arts, respectively. Those properties turned over for a total of $13.4 million, which means Knitting Factory, their L.A.-based restaurant partner The Buckhead Group and investor Fillmore Capital Partners, are all gearing up for a big hospitality-in-numbers game.

They first announced the projects in January 2020, then COVID-19 postponed the renovations by almost a year. And while they were able to open the brewery by August, El Tejano and Loaded were delayed until October, just as baseball season was wrapping up.

Even without the fans around, El Tejano, Loaded and Smash Face are sure to fit in next door to ViewHouse and across the street from the forthcoming Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row. They’re replacing the last generation of downtown party bar with a much glossier version, just potentially without any tangible difference in nightlife.

And with the pandemic still keeping some revelers at bay, Margolis is right to wonder who his customer will be. At least he already has a good guess.

If you go: El Tejano is at 1949 Market St., Loaded is at 1941 Market St. and Smash Face is at 1937 Market St.; the restaurant is open daily from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m.; eltejanotexmex.com/lodo-location 

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