Enter ‘The Gandy Dancer’ to former Glenwood Springs Eagles Club space | PostIndependent.com

Enter ‘The Gandy Dancer’ to former Glenwood Springs Eagles Club space

Outside the old Eagles Club building located in downtown Glenwood Springs. Restaurateur Jonathan Gorst has some big plans for what would be the fifth restaurant in 300 block of Seventh Street.

In between two popular eateries, The Pullman and Juicy Lucy's, lies one of Glenwood Springs' oldest buildings which dates back to 1888.

Located in the heart of Glenwood Springs' "restaurant row," 312 Seventh Street, over the course of its 130-year history, has housed everything from a hardware store to the Durand Opera House, and most recently the local Fraternal Order of the Eagles Aerie, which disbanded last year.

However, in the last several months, the venue which once hosted U.S. presidents like Benjamin Harrison and musical acts like John Philip Sousa's band, has stood idle — until now.

Meet The Gandy Dancer, Riviera Supper Club and Piano Bar owner Jonathan Gorst's latest business venture. It's more like a labor of love for the renowned pianist, conductor and theater producer.

The name is a nod to the Seventh Street location alongside the main Union Pacific rail line. "Gandy dancer" was a slang term for the early railroad workers in the United States, who were more formally known as "section hands."

The plan for the former Eagles space, coming in 2019, includes a restaurant and bar, which will open its doors at least six days out of the week and feature intimate musical performances, according to Gorst.

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"Travis Owen, the executive chef of the Riviera and my business partner, will also be developing this menu," Gorst said. "His mind has been going nonstop for the last two months about what he wants to put in there as far as the cuisine.

"I can guarantee you that it will be inventive and fantastic, as it is at the Riviera, but it will be a different take … We are not just going to replicate what we are doing at the Riviera," Gorst added.

A soft opening for The Gandy Dancer may take place as early as the first quarter of 2019. However, the restaurant and bar area marks just the first phase for Gorst's entire vision of the historic building.

"The goal of that is to bring the awareness of its vibrancy and of its location, and make it a vital place to go downtown to enjoy a night out," Gorst said.

Along with serving food, drinks and hosting intimate live musical performances, once the restaurant sees completion, then the building's 400- to 500-person capacity theater will open its doors, possibly in the fall of 2020.

"In the final phase of the construction of the building, we are trying to organize the situation so that there is a group that manages the theater," he said.

"We are exploring partnerships with every entity that we can imagine right now," Gorst said. "The goal is to make this a community-based center of performances."

With Belly Up in Aspen and the Ute Theater and Events Center in Rifle, a venue which could accommodate everything from banquets, to orchestras and nationally recognized touring bands seemed more than logical for Glenwood Springs, particularly with its proximity to Interstate 70.

"I have always had a dream to hold a swing night with a live orchestra," Gorst said. "It would be my hope to start booking more national acts into a venue like that on occasion, but also the focus of the actual theater would be to serve our existing organizations."

Gorst hinted at a potential partnership with Defiance Community Players, as well as Symphony in the Valley, which is currently celebrating its 25th season. The potential for the theater seemed as high as its ceilings. Gorst also seemed adamant about preserving the historical integrity of the 130-year-old building, as well.

"I hope to make a nod to the Victorian Age and the period and time [when] that building was built, to have it have that feel," Gorst said. "We have actually created space to build a two-story, private seating area complete with a spiral staircase."

mabennett@postindependent.com