To keep up with demand, Tony’s Bar is moving into a bigger space across the street, the former location of Compleat Games and Hobbies, 326 N. Tejon St.
Tony’s opened at its current location in 1999, and the 2,300 square-foot space had always provided enough room for the big weekend and late-night crowds.
But elbow room during peak hours has been scarce lately, and customers have been asking for more.
“We would get calls all the time for birthday parties and big groups,” said General Manager Wendy Shivley, “We couldn’t do it.”
Every week, the bar has had to turn away groups asking to reserve space for 30 to 50 people, said owner Eel Anderson.
“We would pretty much have to clear out the whole place,” he said.
The bar’s capacity is capped at 88 people.
Tony’s has a successful history and is known for drawing a diverse crowd, Anderson said.
“You can have bikers sitting next to lawyers sitting next to college kids,” he said. “Tony’s has been busy since Day 1.”
While the small space gives the bar a certain charm and intimacy, it also comes with some limitations.
“The women’s bathroom, for one,” Anderson said.
It just has one toilet and the line on a busy night gets long. Anderson also wanted to cover the back patio of the bar to make the space available for use year-round, but the landlord wouldn’t allow it.
“We’re moving due to our volume down here,” Anderson said, “and because we wanted to own.”
On March 29, Anderson purchased the new space, which has sat vacant since the hobby and game shop moved out last summer.
The El Paso County Assessor’s records show it sold for $425,000.
Anderson hopes to open the bar in the new location as soon as construction is finished in July or August. He also hopes to be closed for only a short time during the transition.
Anderson said he felt like this was a good time to buy space downtown and he had been casually looking when the new space became available.
“I really love this block,” he said. “And I really wanted to stay on this block.”
Teams of workers have already started demolition and construction in the new building, which will nearly double the bar’s footprint with about 4,300 square feet, not including future plans for front and back patios.
There will be room for three pool tables, a bigger bar and a stage for bands and entertainment, where Anderson said he can reserve space for private parties.
“We’ve already had interest from high school reunions, Colorado College reunions and we can host fantasy football drafts,” Anderson said. “We were too small for that before.”
Of course, Green Bay Packers fans will probably dominate any fantasy picks in the Wisconsin-themed bar.
“A lot of people are worried about the bar losing its charm,” Anderson said. “A lot of it is going to look pretty much the same. It will just be bigger.”
Anderson said the new building, constructed in 1904, is hiding the same red brick and old wood floors under layers of drywall and vinyl that the current location has.
Construction workers are peeling back the layers to reveal those old finishes, and Anderson also plans to move the actual bar from the current location across the street.
The current centerpiece on the back wall of the bar was built in the late 1800s and came off an old bar in Missouri somewhere, Anderson said. They built the rest out to match that piece.
In preparation for a move into the larger space and to build additional revenue, Tony’s started serving breakfast earlier this year.
It’s something they talked about for years, Anderson said. And they decided to see if there was a market for it. Breakfast has been a success the past few months and it has become increasingly popular as word has gotten around about it, he said.
“Most people just think of Tony’s as a bar,” Anderson said. “But we want to be known as an eatery, too.”
That’s how Anderson came to own the bar. He was a cook at Phantom Canyon Brewery years ago when he met former owner Tony Leahy, and the two paired up to open Tony’s.
Anderson bought out Leahy’s share about seven years ago, and he said now is the right time and opportunity to expand.
“We’re going to make our mark downtown and keep Tony’s going,” he said.
Current location: 311 N. Tejon St.
Size: 2,300 square feet
New location to open in July or August: 326 N. Tejon St.
Size: 4,300 square feet