One year after its closure, the Navajo Hogan, a historic double-domed roadhouse on North Nevada Avenue, will reopen in the tradition of its 70-year-old past, with pool and dart leagues, comfort food, booze and plenty of local and national music.
"The feedback I've gotten has been very positive," says new owner Mike Miles, on his decision to revive the Hogan. "It was built as an everyperson's bar."
The Hogan closed in June 2005, when the IRS seized the business from tenant and business owner Ken Patterson, who had failed to pay more than $12,500 in back taxes. Just weeks before, the city's Liquor and Beer Licensing Board had put the Hogan on probation for a delinquent tax payment and alleged behind-the-counter drug deals.
Following the closure, the historic edifice at 2817 N. Nevada Ave. sat empty for months.
Sharon Wolfe, the Hogan's new front-house manager, says she drove by the building every few weeks after it closed. Now 49, she first visited the Hogan when she was a young woman, and returned regularly, even singing the blues onstage. One afternoon this spring, Wolfe pulled around back to look into a window.
"You could smell the building decaying," she says. "It was in such disarray, and I cried."
Two weeks later, she noticed that the door to the Hogan was open again. She walked in and told Miles that she wanted to join his team.
Miles had first stepped foot into the Hogan last October, after he inquired about the property. He leased the space for a short time before buying the building from Mark Burr less than three weeks ago.
A northern Michigan native and not the Harrison School District 2 superintendent of the same name he says the Hogan has a "homey vibe" that reminds him of the wood-paneled bars in the Midwest. And although he moved to Colorado Springs just six years ago, Miles revels in the Hogan's checkered history.
"It has been a part of the fabric of the community," he says. "It means a lot to people."
According to local lore, the bar was built in 1935 by Nicholas Fontecchio, a union organizer for mine workers. Fontecchio created the Hogan as a nightclub for the Navajo miners, constructing two domed ceilings out of stacked wood. The larger "female" dome was fashioned for food and music, while the "male" dome was meant for entertainment. It is twist on the Navajo tradition, which conceives the female dome as a home and kitchen and the male dome as a gathering place for private ceremonies.
In 1982, a taxidermied grizzly bear caught on fire and charred the ceiling of the "female" dome. In 1990, the building was incorporated into the National Historic Register.
Miles and his 40-member staff have pledged a "zero tolerance" policy on underage drinking and drug use. He plans to card rigorously and expects that the staff will keep watch throughout the building.
"We want to be an above-ground place," Miles says. "We are trying to do right by the community."
Miles says the bar will officially open on Wednesday, July 19, with a live performance by local bluesman Jake Loggins. Per new state law, smokers will be relegated to the refurbished back patio.