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Popular Southside Johnny's closing, but owner has other big plans in Colorado Springs

March 7, 2017 Updated: March 8, 2017 at 8:48 am
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Southside Johnny’s, a popular bar, tavern and eatery at 528 S. Tejon St., will close March 26 after a 15-year run, owner Johnny Nolan says. Southside Johnny’s and a handful of other businesses helped lead a commercial revival of downtown Colorado Springs’ south edge over the last several years. (Rich Laden, The Gazette)

Southside Johnny's, a popular bar, eatery and nightspot that helped lead a revitalization of downtown Colorado Springs' south side, will close March 26 after nearly 15 years.

Owner Johnny Nolan says he can't absorb a rent hike of about 30 percent from a prospective new owner of the building he occupies at 528 S. Tejon St.

"It was a good run, a lot of fun," said Nolan, who launched Southside Johnny's in June 2002.

Since then, Southside Johnny's has attracted a diverse crowd, from downtown business people and courthouse lawyers to college students and bikers. It hosted live music, featured TVs for sports viewing and offered an expansive menu of salads, burgers, sandwiches and dinner entrées - not to mention beer, wine and drinks.

The 49-year-old Nolan, who worked for years as a bartender before opening Southside Johnny's, said he can't be sad about closing because he has other business interests to keep him busy.

Nolan also owns Johnny's Navajo Hogan, a restaurant, bar and nightspot at 2817 N. Nevada Ave., where he's planning several upgrades.

He's also close to opening N3 Taphouse, a bar and restaurant inside the old Colorado Springs Fire Department No. 3 firehouse at 817 W. Colorado Ave. on the city's westside.

Nolan bought the historic, brick building in early 2015. He and his crew have spent more than a year transforming the property, which will include features that pay homage to the work of firefighters. He's targeting an April 14 opening.

The majority of employees at Southside Johnny's, about 30, will move over to N3 when it opens, Nolan said.

"It was a good run, but it's time to move on to different stuff," he said.

Computer Resources owner Rich Guy, who owns the building occupied by South Johnny's and a handful of parcels on the South Tejon block, said he's contracted to sell his property to a buyer whom he declined to identify. He expects to complete the sale within 60 days.

The new owner plans major upgrades to the properties, which could include construction on a surface parking lot, remodeling of ground floor and upper-level building space and second-floor construction, Guy said.

The South Tejon corridor has had ups and downs over the years. A thriving area of shops and restaurants several decades ago, it later went through a period of neglect as other downtown areas flourished. A building across the street from Southside Johnny's became best known as the home of an adult bookstore and movie house.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, however, developers began eying the area for an upgrade - at one time dubbing it SoDo for south downtown. Southside Johnny's joined Shuga's, a restaurant and bar on South Cascade Avenue, and other businesses also followed.

Today, The Coffee Exchange, Years Ahead Salon and McCabe's Tavern are among businesses that occupy the same block as Southside Johnny's. The adult book store is gone from the block across the street, which now includes Fieldhouse Brewing Co. and a 3-year-old building that houses a Northstar bank.

The Blue Dot Place apartments and Iron Bird Brewing Co., meanwhile, are nearby on Nevada Avenue.

"They (Southside Johnny's) were at the forefront of that southern portion of downtown moving forward," said Susan Edmondson, president and CEO of the Downtown Partnership. "While I would hate to see them go, I do think it's also part of the life cycle of a growing and changing downtown."

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