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Denver's oldest jazz club, El Chapultepec, closes after nearly 90 years in business
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Credit: El Chapultepec

DENVER — After 87 years in business, the seminal Denver jazz club and bar El Chapultepec—affectionately known as “The Pec”—is closing its doors.

The Denver Post was first to report the closure of the iconic destination for musicians and jazz fans alike.

El Chapultepec has stood on the corner of 20th & Market since 1933. It was the city’s oldest jazz and blues club.

The Facebook page of El Chapultepec owner Angela Guerrero has been flooded with messages of support and condolence. “Thanks always for letting me be a part and sing with so many great musicians throughout the years,” wrote vocalist and KUVO Host Venus Cruz. “You were very much a home. You were where I cut my teeth. You were where I grew up. I share this loss with so many great people. Hopefully we’ll see ya in the future.”

In the 90s, KUVO JAZZ broadcast some 100 sessions from The Pec. The station will be digging through the archives and sharing the music they captured in the upcoming months.

“One of my favorite memories dates back to the late 80’s. Charles Brown the legendary Blues vocalist & pianist was sitting in with Freddy Rodriquez and the guys when Harry Connick Jr. walked in," recalled KUVO General Manager Carlos Lando. "He couldn’t believe it, there was Charles Brown, one of the most influential and important musicians from the golden era of Rhythm & Blues playing the piano and singing “Merry Christmas Baby.” Needless to say, the Pec came alive, word got out Harry Connick Jr. and many of his musicians were going to jam. At the end of the night sitting and playing the piano together were Charles Brown and a rising young star Harry Connick Jr. If anyone has a photo from that night, I’d love to see it.”

Guerrero is expected to hold a press conference Tuesday, December 8 at noon to deliver remarks about the closure.

According to Andrew Hudson of the popular Andrew Hudson’s Job List, the decision by the owners to close was “multifactorial,” though the impact of the pandemic and the restrictions that came with it were undeniable.

Many musical legends played at El Chapultepec over the years, from Frank Sinatra to Ella Fitzgerald. Even former President Bill Clinton played there when he was campaigning for president, according to Colorado Public Radio.

For more than 40 years, Freddy Rodriguez Sr. regularly played at The Pec. The world lost Rodriguez to COVID-19 earlier this year, on March 25. He was 89 years old.

“I told my mom, Josephine Rodriquez, this morning that the Pec has permanently closed. She said that the Pec died for her earlier this year when my father, Freddy Rodriguez Sr. died from COVID," said Freddy Rodriguez Jr. "My dad loved the Pec. Getting ready to go play at the Pec was the highlight of his week. He started performing at the Pec in the 80s, introduced bebop, worked and mentored countless musicians including myself. The Pec will always be a big part of our family.”

“This place was a come one, come all safe space for everyone. You'd see the homeless tapping their toes with the millionaires. The cops swinging with the crooks,” Hudson wrote on Facebook. Hudson, a bassist, regularly played at El Chapultepec with Rodriguez Sr.

“The 'Pec was more than a bar. It was part of the heartbeat of the City of Denver - through good times and bad times. A destination. Everyone who has been there remembers 'that time at the 'Pec!'”

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