Inga’s Alpine Tavern’s story begins in concession stands, the concession stands you see when you buy a Rockies Dog at Coors Field or a draft beer at Pepsi Center. Friends and business partners Mary McKnabb and Marty Varela were discussing life after the concession stands as, at different times, they had both been in charge of a large non-profit organization that fund-raised by volunteering in concession stands from Colorado Springs to Boulder. McKnabb and Varela were operating a cleaning business and knew that there was something else that would inspire their larger-than-life personalities. In fact, McKnabb has been in the hospitality business for a long time, having been a waitress at the Bull & Bush, Sam’s No. 3, and Caldonia’s.
Together as Director and President of Universal Education Supporters they grew a little group of volunteers fund-raising for Catholic schools into a million-dollar operation that granted scholarships to those in need along the front range. Along the way a new friend was made, Kerry O’Brien, whose love of music and generous spirit was a natural fit to make the pair a trio. When looking at new ventures it was O’Brien that knew it had to be a restaurant and bar. He knew that it was food and drink that brought people together, created memories and friendships for those who were seeking camaraderie, nourishment and libations.
The search for the perfect tavern for the trio to hang their shingle on began. A few bars and restaurants were toured and considered but early in the search when Inga’s Alpine Tavern was up for sale each owner knew that this was the place. Inga’s, less than one mile from George Washington High School and the intersection where McKnabb’s 15-year-old daughter Amelia lost her life in 2008, was perfect.
Inga’s has the same quirky personality as Amelia. If you see photos of Amelia with her wavy hair and individual style and you see Inga’s décor you know that these ladies were meant for each other. It was disappointing that contractually the owners couldn’t change the name to Amelia’s Place as was their intention. However once in Inga’s they knew that there was room for both Inga and Amelia.
The funky and fun outdoor patio was named Amelia’s Place. “The patio named after my daughter satisfies that need,” said Mary McKnabb, co-owner of Inga’s Alpine Tavern. “The mural is up on the wall and we honor her there and the George Washington teachers come in and we do feel a connection to the place and the location. We love Inga’s and the neighborhood loves Inga’s.”
So, the trio of owners officially took over on July 23, 2019. McKnabb describes Inga’s as eclectic from the décor to the clientele. “We like that because I would say eclectic is the right word for everything, said McKnabb. “It’s the décor and it’s our guests. We have Hilltop behind us and South of us is a blue-collar working neighborhood, so we feel like we get an eclectic group of customers here. But it’s a standard as far as drinks and bar food.” “This is a great place to enjoy a quick cocktail or hang and have some good snacks,” said Andy McCabe on Google Review. “May is such a nice sweet bartender.”
During the Covid-19 shutdown, Inga’s transitioned to all delivery mode and relied on third party apps to deliver their food. “We just scraped by,” said McKnabb. “The landlord respects the history of the building and helped us out during the shutdown.” The building was the first Le Peep in Denver.
“We want everyone to know we take Covid seriously,” said McKnabb. “We take precautions, and we want to do everything the right way. We want our guests to be safe so we listen to the experts and we obviously want to open at 100% [capacity]. We will do whatever it takes within the city guidelines to reopen and be a full bar because we love it.”
Inga’s Alpine Tavern opens at 3 p.m. every day and is located at 5151 Leetsdale Drive in Denver. For more information, call 720-389-6203 or visit www.ingasalpinetavern.net.