Beloved wa­ter­ing hole Shelby’s will be razed to make room for con­dos.

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Joe Ru­bino

The low-slung build­ing hous­ing Shelby’s Bar & Grill has stood at 519 18th St. in Den­ver for more than 110 years. It’s been a bar for just about all of those.

Now, in late 2018, with a new land­lord and re­de­vel­op­ment plans for the land in place, Shelby’s own­ers know the end is at hand. For the mo­ment, though, it’s busi­ness as usual at the stub­born wa­ter­ing hole.

“We don’t own the prop­erty, we own the busi­ness. And once they say it’s time to go, it’s time to go,” said Howard Nel­son, who has co-owned Shelby’s with his wife, Nanette, since the cou­ple bought it for $125,000 in 1991. “We don’t know how long.”

For more than 15 years, Shelby’s build­ing and the ground its sits on was owned by An­te­lope Real Es­tate, an arm of the Anschutz fam­ily’s Col­orado em­pire. In April, Cana­dian real es­tate com­pany Ama­con Devel­op­ment bought it for $8.8 mil­lion. The deal was first re­ported in Busi­ness Den.

Nel­son said an Ama­con rep told him this past spring the busi­ness would have at least through the Su­per Bowl on Feb. 3, but that per­son isn’t with the com­pany any­more, so it’s all up in the air as far as he knows.

“We’ll start sweat­ing it around the Su­per Bowl, but un­til that comes we’re not do­ing any­thing,” Nel­son said.

Along with his wife, five of the six Nel­son chil­dren have worked or still work at Shelby’s. “There is no go­ing-away party. It’s just busi­ness as usual,” Nel­son said.

On Tues­day, Ama­con sub­mit­ted devel­op­ment plans for a pair of condo tow­ers on the prop­erty, one 38 sto­ries and the other 32.

Be­tween them, they would bring 477 res­i­den­tial units to the Cen­tral Busi­ness Dis­trict, a neigh­bor­hood that has ex­pe­ri­enced tremen­dous res­i­den­tial growth over the last decade. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Ama­con did not re­turn re­quests for com­ment on the project’s tim­ing Thurs­day.

“I’m happy that Den­ver is re­ally start­ing to move into the next cen­tury, but how many lux­ury con­do­mini­ums do you re­ally

Nel­son said. “I’m happy for the city but sad for us.”

Busi­ness at Shelby’s is do­ing fine. Nel­son ex­pected a packed house Thurs­day night for the NFL’s Carolina Pan­thers vs. Pitts­burgh Steel­ers game, and it’s be­come pop­u­lar with a younger crowd.

“The mil­len­ni­als have found us out of nowhere,” Nel­son said, adding that he thinks it might have some­thing to do with the bar be­ing “very, very rea­son­ably priced.”

Shelby’s surge in youth ap­peal may also be re­lated to it land­ing on Esquire mag­a­zine’s “18 Best Bars in Amer­ica” list in 2016. The cul­ture mag hailed it as a tan­gi­ble re­minder of the “ornery fron­tier town” that Den­ver used to be.

Shelby’s would be the lat­est in a line of lo­cal main­stays to close. Bar, restau­rant and com­edy club El Char­ito an­nounced this week that it will close Dec. 23 af­ter five decades in busi­ness at 2100 Larimer St. A dozen blocks away, at 3463 Larimer, Phil’s Place served its last smoth­ered bur­rito last month. Govrn’s Park Tav­ern is hold­ing a good­bye party at 672 Lo­gan St. on Satur­day.

“We don’t want to go,” Nel­son said. “We knew even­tu­ally it was go­ing to hap­pen. They weren’t go­ing to leave a small, lit­tle bar like this in down­town Den­ver.”

Kira Hor­vath, Den­ver Post file

Happy hour at Shelby’s Bar & Grill dur­ing the sum­mer of 2016.

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