By Conor McCue

DENVER (CBS4) – One of Denver’s oldest bars and music venues is turning to the community to avoid closing down for good, after months of struggling to pay the bills due to COVID-19 restrictions. As East Colfax has changed over the years and businesses have come and gone, the Lion’s Lair has adapted and endured.

(credit: CBS)

“It opened in ’39 as the Aladdin Lounge,” said co-owner Tony Meggitt. “Then it was the Playboy Club for a little bit.”

The neighborhood mainstay was then purchased by John Lyons in 1967, who turned it into the Lion’s Lair. It’s since become a pillar in Denver’s music scene, hosting countless big-name artists over the years.

(credit: Lion’s Lair)

“Papa Roach has played here, the White Stripes, Black Keys all played here when they were first starting out,” said Meggitt.

Meggitt and his partner, Doug Kauffman, later purchased the bar and have now owned it for 25 years.

On a busy night, the intimate bar can hold about 100 patrons and a band. That scenario hasn’t played out in more than eight months though, because of COVID-19 restrictions that limit bar capacity and indoor gatherings.

“We actually shut down the bar 3 days before the governor made us shut it down because we were worried about customers,” Meggitt said.

Tony Meggitt (credit: CBS)

Eight months later, the stage remains empty and bills are piling up. The only bit of revenue the bar was able to make was over the summer, when Meggitt and Kauffman briefly reopened to serve pizza and hot dogs. The business is also licensed to serve food, as well as liquor.

“Before this GoFundMe, I didn’t know if we were going to make it or not,” Meggitt said.

More than a week ago, the Lair turned to the community for help, posting that GoFundMe page on Facebook.

(credit: GoFundMe)

“Bars weren’t given the best hand in 2020 and we are asking for your help to keep the legendary Lion’s Lair alive,” the post read.

619 people have since donated more than $27,000.

“We were looking through people that have donated and I know a lot of them, a lot of old friends,” Meggett said. “It’s been really touching.”

Meggitt says it’ll be enough to cover months of back rent, as well as some future bills. He and his partner still expect to be in survival mode for another six months, as it remains unclear when they’ll be able to bring in bands and music lovers again.

“We’ve got to keep these places open, so these bands and people have a chance,” Meggitt said.

If you want to donate, you can find the GoFundMe page here.

Conor McCue