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  • Sandra Dallas

Golden Business Spotlight: Columbine Bar

By Sandra Dallas

Photos by Povy Kendal Atchison

Ever since the popular Columbine Bar opened its doors at end of Prohibition, it has overcome economic hardships. They include recessions and nonsmoking laws that sent patrons to private clubs to smoke. But nothing has challenged the bar’s business as much as the current COVID crisis, which shut down the Columbine for six months. When it reopened, it was allowed to operate at 25 percent capacity—just 12 persons.

But “we made it!” says Chris Artemis, who took charge of the bar five years ago. He can now seat up to 40 customers. That’s almost the bar’s capacity. Still, with social distancing and folks staying at home, Artemis is taking no chances. In June, he’ll start featuring bluegrass music every Thursday. The sessions will be held outside, where the Columbine can accommodate 100 to 150 concert-goers, and the bar will have food available. The Columbine will also bring back Friday night fish fries.

The Columbine has been a popular hangout since Artemis’s uncle, Mike Hatzis, an immigrant, opened it in 1934, as the Columbine Café. Gassed during World War I, Hatzis recuperated at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital. He grew to love the Colorado mountains, which reminded him of his native Crete, and stayed on. The bar passed down to Artemis’s father in 1976 and eventually to Artemis and his mother, brother, and sister.

The Columbine has weathered the years, Artemis says because customers say “it’s like going into somebody’s living room. We don’t have a lot to offer besides pleasantness. It’s a social stop-off.” In fact, Artemis compares the Columbine’s atmosphere to “Cheers,” the TV comedy.

Although business at the Columbine is on an upswing, these days, “it could be a lot worse,” Artemis fears. “We need the economy to open up again.” Until then, he’s depending on customers old and new who crave a friendly bar where, Artemis says “Everybody knows your name.”

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