Venue Voices — The Roxy on Broadway Keeps the Music History of South Broadway Alive

Photo by Annie French-Mack

From the outside, the old brick building looks humble as it sits on the busy street of South Broadway. The only clue on the exterior that lends an idea of the musical history encapsulating the building is a gramophone on the roof. The space has been a music venue for over 30 years, and The Roxy on Broadway intends to continue the musical tradition. Upon walking through the wooden-frame doors of The Roxy, one is greeted by a 1920s-era charm throughout the restaurant and venue. The classic wood floors are worn from decades of dancing, and a secret speakeasy in the basement is a traditional stamp of time.

“The 20s was a time when music and dancing started to shine, and people were really starting to be themselves regardless of whatever social norms told them to do,” Paula Vrakas, the owner of The Roxy on Broadway, said. “They were doing what made them happy, and that’s what I wanted to encompass.”

The building itself is said to be from the 30s and was built by the building’s landlord’s father. Once upon a time, Bob Dylan performed on the stage inside and more recently, The Lumineers wrote a song in the building. The history seeps through in the form of old wood ceiling beams, aging brick walls and a hidden speakeasy in the basement. The speakeasy goes along with the vintage 1920s-era charm, featuring antique velvet couches and a full bar for all the Prohibition protesters. 

READ: A Local’s Guide to Bars on South Broadway

Photo by Annie French-Mack

Not to be confused with The Roxy Theatre in Five Points, The Roxy on Broadway gets its name from its original location in Encinitas, CA, which was established in 1978. Upon visiting a friend in Denver, Vrakas came across The Syntax, the business located in the building prior to The Roxy. She saw the tiles at the door, the stage and the gramophone on the sign outside and noticed it had many similarities to The Roxy in Encinitas. 

When Vrakas saw that The Syntax was up for sale, she moved to Denver and opened The Roxy on Broadway. “The fact that it had all those nuances that are so similar to The Roxy in Encinitas, there’s nowhere else where I think The Roxy is supposed to be,” Vrakas said. They opened their doors in the Fall of 2019 on the bustling South Broadway, but when COVID struck, they struggled alongside many other businesses. 

“We opened four months before the shutdown. It’s been an uphill battle; it’s been really tough,” Vrakas said. “Denver has such a great music scene, and I’m just glad to be a part of it. We have the stamina to keep fighting for this place because I don’t want to see the music die.” 

Bryce Fox is the General Manager for The Roxy on Broadway and has seen the effects of COVID on restaurants in the neighborhood. “The hospitality industry has definitely seen a lot of hits since COVID,” Fox said. “A lot of us who have been in it for any length of time are just starting to realize how impactful that continues to be. Things aren’t the way that they used to be.” 

South Broadway has no shortage of music venues, but what sets The Roxy apart is that, starting in May, they will offer free live music every day. “What we’re looking forward to is offering more music that is free to everyone, and we’re looking forward to getting back to what we were before the pandemic,” Vrakas said. “People don’t have the extra money to spend so that’s why we’re going to the free music. Whatever we can do to make sure that the music never stops.”

The Roxy is one of the few female-owned and veteran-owned music venues in Denver, and they also pride themselves on being a neighborhood bar for everyone. The decor is chic yet rustic with historic elegance, and the inviting patio out front lures in neighbors, their dogs and new friends. “Part of being a neighborhood bar is just being here for the community and being able to do fun stuff,” Fox said. “We are a safe space for expression and community, and I think when you are open to the community, and people feel welcome in a different way than if you were to go to a normal restaurant, I think that’s a little bit special.”

The venue features all different types of music, varying every day, from day to night. Across the board, from heavy metal to disco, burlesque and drag shows, they’ve been able to have almost every type of musician or performer in their venue. “One hundred percent of the proceeds with a very small asterisk goes to the artists,” Fox said. “That’s something we’ve always been able to do in both states, and it’s something that’s really important to our identity and creating a safe space for music and expression.” 

Their goal at The Roxy is to be a place where everyone is able to experience a great neighborhood hangout space. “Be who you are and enjoy it. Dance, drink and be merry,” Vrakas said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, how old you are, where you come from, there’s always going to be music, there’s always going to be good food and there’s always going to be good drinks.” 

One of Vrakas and Fox’s favorite recurring events at The Roxy is their brunch service offered on Saturdays and Sundays. They have a rotating DJ every weekend and serve a Denver-famous Bloody Mary with a heavily guarded secret recipe. Vrakas said the recipe comes from her Wisconsin roots and has won the title Best Bloody Mary in Denver at local events.

Some of Fox’s favorite bands that play at the Roxy are Weird Touch (playing April 27th), The Huckle Bearers, Rented Tuxedo, and the Parlor Pickers. The Roxy is all-ages most of the time, unless specified on its website, and offers a full menu during dinner service as well. Along with its full dinner and drink menu, it also features an extensive list of non-alcoholic cocktails.  

South Broadway has much to offer in terms of music venues and restaurants, and The Roxy’s goal is to help keep the music alive. They carry on the tradition of the musical roots in their building, especially with their mission to start having free live music every night, starting in May. “What ties us into South Broadway is the music, and that’s our soul,” Vrakas said. “Music brings us together. Music makes your soul smile. Anyone that appreciates music appreciates all music.”

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