Josh Schmitz wants to revive nightlife in downtown Denver.
The co-owner of Denver restaurant group Handsome Boys Hospitality has landed on a permanent concept to open within a 2,000-square-foot space in Larimer Square where he had previously been operating holiday pop-up bars.
Schmitz plans to open Disco Pig, a dance club with a tiki theme, next Friday at 1403 Larimer St.
“We think there’s a gap in the market right now for fun nightlife,” Schmitz said. “When people think about nightlife downtown they think of big nightclubs like Temple, but there’s not a ton of good places to go out and dance right now with places like Nativ and Sip closing down.”
Handsome Boys Hospitality leased the former Crimson Room space in September.
In October, the restaurant group operated Spirits, a Halloween-themed pop-up bar. In December, the space was home to the Christmas-themed Naughty List.
Schmitz said he plans to find another location for holiday-themed pop-up bars next year.
Handsome Boys already has a presence in Larimer Square. Next door at 1411 Larimer St., the restaurant group owns Hidden Gems, a Wizard of Oz-themed ice cream shop, and the Alice in Wonderland-themed Drunken Bakery.
“With the way downtown turned with Market Street and the violence, I stopped coming down here,” Schmitz said. “Downtown is losing market share to places like RiNo and the Highlands. But when the pandemic hit, we got the opportunity to open in Larimer Square, and we were inspired to turn the block around again and make it a fun place to visit.”
Larimer Square is owned by Charlotte-based Asana Partners, which paid $92 million for it in late 2020. Schmitz said the company is “bringing the energy back” to the block.
“We see a ton of tourists and locals on Larimer Square, but it’s become a one-stop destination,” he said. “People come here just to eat and leave, and even though it’s one of the most recommended places to visit, is it really that fun? There’s not a ton of staying power on this block. So, we want to give people a place to go pre- and post-dinner in Larimer Square.”
Disco Pig’s quirky interior will be covered in disco balls, have mirrored walls, and greet visitors with a three-foot-tall bronze pig statue. The bar will have six in-house cocktails, including its namesake Hawaiian tiki drink that will be served out of a mug with a disco pig on it.
Schmitz has partnered with Lance Dunlap, the talent buyer for Global Dance, a Denver-based electronic music events company that hosts Colorado’s annual Global Dance Festival, to open Disco Pig and run the club’s music program, which will feature rotating DJs.
“There was just an article that came out in the Denver Post with a headline that said ‘Downtown is dead,’ and I couldn’t disagree with that more,” Schmitz said. “I think that headline itself is why young creatives and people with a different set of vision are being given the entryway to do cool things down here, which we haven’t had before.”
In addition to Disco Pig, Schmitz leased the former Milk & Honey Bar and Kitchen space across the street at 1414 Larimer St. and is planning a new concept there as well.
Schmitz, 35, launched Handsome Boys Hospitality with business partners Matt Haberman and Brandon Jundt during the pandemic. He has since grown it from five to 70 employees, and said that number will likely double in the next year or so. The restaurant group’s offices are also in Larimer Square.
Handsome Boys Hospitality opened Telephone Pub, a Harry Potter-inspired bar, in December in Lakewood’s Belmar. The company also plans to open RiNo Country Club, a putt-putt bar with a biergarten, at 3763 Wynkoop St. in April, and Mexican party bar Lucha (formerly known as Con Safos) at 1416 Market St. in LoDo shortly after that.
“I wish we opened all of these months ago, but people just don’t work as quick as we do,” Schmitz said. “Our company runs at speedboat speed, rather than cruise ship. We’re not running into any staffing issues, and we have resumes and applications flooding in.”