El Chapultepec is closing, and, well, there goes Denver

The legendary jazz club has been around for 87 years.

El Chapultepec. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

El Chapultepec. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The coronavirus pandemic has forced yet another iconic Denver hangout to close. El Chapultepec, one of the oldest music venues in the city, plans to close after 87 years. 

The jazz club, whose name means “The Grasshopper Hill” in Nahuatl, was a famous launchpad for many musicians, said John Gunther, who directs the Thompson Jazz Studies Program at the University of Colorado Boulder.

“You could sit with the band and play,” he said. “It was a real important part of the jazz scene, certainly, but also the music scene and then it also had a national and international reputation.”

Gunther is a saxophone player who grew up in Denver and Aurora. He remembered going to “The Pec” on 20th and Market streets in the ’80s, early in his music career, to listen to and play with other musicians. He said jamming with others, especially musicians of color, like Billy Wallace, Bruno Carr and Freddy Rodriguez, was an integral part of his education and success. Legendary musicians like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Mick Jagger performed at the club. 

“Jazz is Black American music, and Denver has a history of such great African-American jazz musicians,” Gunther said. “A white kid like me could come from the suburbs into Denver and here’s these older Black men opening a stage to two young musicians, white and Black, and of all ages. I looked back on that and it’s like, ‘Wow, what a powerful and beautiful legacy.'”

Gunther said that style of mentorship is a central part of how music is taught.

The Krantz family, who own the club, could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday afternoon. A Facebook post said the family did not take the decision to close the club lightly. 

“Krantz family sends our love to all who this decision affects,” the post read. “The Pec is a living, breathing, member of both our family and the Denver community. The decision was multifactorial and though we know it’s the right thing to do. We morn (sic) with you.”

The family will hold a press conference Tuesday to announce the decision.

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