Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Fagan’s restaurant successor open for business

Fagan’s restaurant, a favorite watering hole for DU students and neighbors since 1973, reopened Oct. 25 with a different name and an electric new look.

Gone are the thick growth of plants and dark, rustic feel that had characterized the 34-year-old bar in its latter years. In its place are zesty blue paint, modern metallic seating and an open, welcoming atmosphere.

The changes were a jolt to Fagan’s founder Joe Blackman (MA ’71), who ran the restaurant for 10 years. But after a quick tour and a sample of sliders, Blackman was ready to proclaim the renovation “really, really cool.”

“This is much nicer,” he told Matt Landy, new proprietor of Smugs and Red’s Express, the bar, restaurant and takeout-dining concept now at work in the landmark location at the northwest corner of East Evans Avenue and Downing Street.

Landy took over in July, struggling to update, upgrade and upscale the corner restaurant. He didn’t have to wait long to gauge response.

“We opened during the World Series and were slammed,” he says.

The response staggered the kitchen and forced the bar and dining portion to expand into space Landy had earmarked as a takeout food service for the under-21 crowd.

Still in place at Smugs are two of the three original Fagan’s fireplaces, now equipped with gas logs, and the teller cage from Colorado National Bank that Blackman bought at auction and converted into a bar. Also untouched are two giant doors Blackman rescued from a 19th century Longmont barn.

The barn doors have been brightened with new paint, but they still lend character to the building that once was home to a bookstore, a doughnut shop and the Silver Spruce, a one-time topless biker bar that Blackman bought out to tone down.

Now there’s a new chapter in the 69-year-old building’s story.

“Every day I get a little bit bigger of a lunch crowd,” says Sarah Brechtel, the day-shift bar manager at Smugs. “It’s not just college kids and the old Fagan’s people. It’s a mix — and tons of neighborhood people.”

That may be good, since new competition recently opened up only a few blocks east in the form of a Carl’s Jr. The California-based restaurant chain is now operating in the former Wienerschnitzel hot dog stand at the northwest corner of East Evans Avenue and Franklin Street.

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