New Castle keeps its only saloon
NEW CASTLE — The town’s only full-fledged saloon, one steeped in history and some controversy, will continue to operate, following Town Council’s approval last week of a liquor license to new business owners.
Council, acting as the local liquor licensing authority, unanimously approved the transfer Tuesday — effectively allowing Chapman’s Pub, formerly the Silver Club Saloon, to continue to operate at 366 W. Main St., and ensuring the presence of a bar in New Castle.
While several other establishments serve alcohol and sell food, Chapman’s is the only bar in town open to 2 a.m. and, as several people noted at the meeting, it is the only place locals can go shoot a game of pool.
“It’s one of the few places where I can go play pool in town,” said Donald Zordel, who added that he has been a patron of the establishment since the early ‘60s. “If it goes away, I’ve got to go to Glenwood, Rifle, somewhere else to do this. It’s something I enjoy. I have a lot of friends that come there, we sit and talk, it’s a good socialization.”
Zordel also was one of more than 80 people who signed a petition supporting Chapman’s.
As Bronwyn Rittner, a resident who recently moved directly behind the establishment, put it, having an establishment like Chapman’s, which hosts live bands and karaoke, is important for any small community.
“I do understand coming from other small towns that diversity and a lively nature is important to a community to help it thrive in more ways than just one,” she said during last Tuesday’s public hearing.
Councilor Frank Breslin, who lives a block down the street, concurred, saying that he likes having a tavern in town.
New owners Terri and Brett Ferguson have run the saloon since October. Both are eager about the possibilities with Chapman’s.
“We want to be a positive part of the community,” Terri said. “We want to be involved with the chamber of commerce, we want to give back to the community, do fundraisers. … We just need the opportunity to do so. We believe that this pub can be a positive side of New Castle.”
The Fergusons moved from Willis, Texas, to New Castle around a year ago to retire, which is about the only thing they have not done since arriving. Aside from Chapman’s, they also run Western Slope Mechanical out of Glenwood Springs.
In explaining the decision to take over the bar, Terri said in an interview that the couple thought the town really needed a place for people to gather, listen to music and enjoy one another’s company.
However, the endeavor has been a great deal of work; mainly redefining the establishment and building Chapman’s as a fun and friendly place, which has not always been the case for the various businesses that operated in the space.
A Troubled Past
The saloon, which was built in 1928, according to the Garfield County Assessor’s Office, is not without controversy.
Known for years as the Canyon Club, the business was purchased in 2012 by Seth Graby, who said in a Post Independent story at the time that he was intrigued by the history behind the establishment. Graby renamed the bar the Silver Club Saloon, which he said was its original name.
A phone call to Graby on Friday was not returned.
At the time, Graby, in relaying what he heard from locals, said “people knew it as a knife and gun club.” The 2012 story states that Graby intended on squashing that reputation.
Problems persisted, though.
In October, renewal of the Silver Club Saloon’s liquor license came before the New Castle liquor licensing authority for a public hearing.
A records search, conducted by New Castle Police Department, spanning Oct. 1, 2014, to Sept. 28, 2015, turned up 68 incidents — the majority of which were routine bar checks. Sixteen calls involved “noise complaints, drug investigations, liquor/alcohol violations, disturbances, trespasses, suspicious events and hazards,” according to the report presented at the time of the renewal hearing.
According to the meeting minutes from Oct. 6, Al Walker with the New Castle Police Department described the Silver Club as “an unfriendly environment” for law enforcement officers and said it was “daunting to enter the bar alone.”
Tim Graves, an attorney representing the saloon at the October hearing, went through each of the incidents involved in the report. Graby could not attend the hearing, Graves said, due to medical conditions related to his military service. The 2012 PI story said Graby was a U.S. Army veteran who served three tours of duty in Iraq.
Graves told councilors that “high-anxiety situations such as the hearing trigger his PTSD,” according to the October meeting minutes.
Graves also shared the bar’s protocol for dealing with unruly patrons, and stated that all bar staff had recently received TIPS certification — a training program designed to prevent intoxication and other alcohol-related issues in a bar setting.
In addressing some of the incidents, Graves said there were previous issues over serving and noise, but Graby was actively addressing those. He also said that in some instances he felt there were unfair allegations being levied against the Silver Club Saloon.
To deny the liquor license renewal would likely lead to the certain death of the saloon, Graves said.
Councilors heard that evening from a handful of residents, several who expressed support for the Silver Club, but others complained of noise, trash outside the establishment and smoking out on the sidewalk.
The liquor licensing authority, with Breslin being the only dissenting vote, denied the application to renew the license. That ultimately spurred transfer of the liquor license to the Fergusons.
Residents who spoke in favor of Chapman’s last Tuesday noted they have seen significant improvements since the Fergusons started running the bar.
“It’s probably the best it’s ever been in all this time and they work hard at making it better,” said Zordel, the patron who said he has been coming to the establishment since the early ‘60s.
Bronwyn said she has noticed similar improvements in the four or five months living directly behind the establishment.
“What I do know from me being here the last four months, five months is that it has changed dramatically for the better,” she said. “(The Fergusons) have made a real effort to be part of the community. I appreciate that. I appreciate the fact that I can go to them at any time and have a conversation with them.”
Some residents still expressed reservations.
Ann Andzel, who lives next door, said she has noticed improvements but there are still issues with noise and garbage.
“I do appreciate everything the neighbors have done to clean up the place and make it look better,” she said. “I’m surprised that it has calmed down the way it has, but it’s not there yet … ”
Andzel said she is still regularly awakened at night by patrons going to their vehicles. She worries that the problem will accelerate as spring approaches.
The Fergusons that though there are still some issues, they are making changes, including installing a new front door to prevent sound from spilling outside, to mitigate persistent problems.
Several councilors commended the Fergusons for their efforts, including Breslin, who said he has noticed the establishment is cleaner.
“I believe the Fergusons’ testimony and I think they’re trying,” he said prior to unanimous approval of the liquor license transfer.
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