Really, coronavirus? You had to silence the pianos at The Brown Palace?

John Kite played piano at the hotel for 33 years. Then coronavirus came.

A vacant piano in the Brown Palace's empty tea lounge, March 19, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A vacant piano in the Brown Palace's empty tea lounge, March 19, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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For 33 years, John A. Kite has played piano at The Brown Palace Hotel. He’s the soundtrack to tea-sipping in the impressive lobby and the accompanist for patrons who burst into song at The Ship Tavern. (The most requested song? “Moon River,” he says.)

But until bars and restaurant dining rooms are allowed to open again, Kite won’t be tickling the ivories. He’s sad. But he gets it.

“I think closing the bars and restaurants in Denver, per our mayor, is the only way that this virus thing is going to level out,” he said.

Kite said this is the first time in its 86-year history that The Ship Tavern has closed. The pub’s nautical touches include a ship’s mast at its center and yellowing maps on the walls. The piano is tucked away at the end of the bar. In normal times, Kite said, “people come in, we don’t have microphones, and they practice their songs and they practice their lyrics and they stand up and belt them out.”

The Ship Tavern at the Brown Palace is closed, March 19, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The Ship Tavern at the Brown Palace is closed, March 19, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Kite, a contract worker at The Brown, tears up when he thinks about not seeing those people for 8 weeks — especially his colleagues at the hotel. “We spend more time with these people than we do our families. It’s time away from them.”

Kite calls his hotel gig “the best job ever.”

He wipes the tears, and a rush of optimism comes over him.

“When Denver comes back and we’re over this, it’s going to be good. It’s going to be strong. I think it’s going to be really strong. The Brown Palace has survived for what, 128 years? We’ll make it. All the people that come in and music will once again reverberate through the Brown Palace. I’m sure of it.”

John A. Kite sits in a CPR recording studio. March 17, 2020. (Ryan Warner/CPR News)

John A. Kite sits in a CPR recording studio. March 17, 2020. (Ryan Warner/CPR News)

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