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The End of Jax LoDo As You Know It

New Year's eve will mark the end of Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar in LoDo as you know it. At the end of the dinner service on December 31, the restaurant will close its doors to undergo a significant makeover both for the space that housed the seafood restaurant for the last 16 years and for the food format and general dining experience.

The most vibrant spot at Jax LoDo has always been the bar. Designer John Buchanan, who was originally involved in planning the offices upstairs but not the main space, aims to capture that energy and bring it into the entire space. The remodel plan includes extending the bar throughout the length of the dining room. The booths than now occupy that middle area will be removed and the aquarium that currently divides the bar from the dining room, will find a home close to the entrance. There will be less exposed brick, double the number of bar seats, and booths in an stadium-like set-up all around the perimeter of the space.

The raw fish section of the bar will increase from the current six to seven feet to almost eleven feet. The vision for the transformed Jax includes bringing food preparation out of the kitchen and behind the bar. Six gallon-sized jacketed steam-kettles will be installed at the far end of the bar, a place that will be referred to as the Counter, where crab boils, shrimp boils, dungeness crab hot pots, and the like will be prepared.

The format of the menu will change. Chef Amos Watts is working on the details, but he plans to move away from the traditional division into starters, soups, salads, and entrees to a format that better reflects the new space. Sections of the menu will include: from the raw bar, from the kitchen, and so on. More sharable plates will be highlighted to reflect the community-oriented dining experience, caviar will available in smaller portions making it more approachable, and - fear not - the calamari, a dish that has been served at Jax from day one, will remain on the menu.

Moving a lot of the food preparation behind the bar will not only provide a closer connection between the cooks and the guests, it will also make room for more intricate dishes in the back kitchen. Chef Watts envisions more interesting pan sears, more complex main courses, and even an in-house bread baking program.

The bar program at Jax is growing. The tap beer selection will triple, going from the six current handles to 18 when Jax reopens. On tap, there will also be wine and a selection of four homemade sodas that can range in flavors from dill pickle, to ginger ale, and root beer.

Another big change is lunch. For the first time in 16 years, Jax will serve lunch during the weekdays. The team aims to serve the downtown business community with a lunch program that will be up to the standard of service and food that Jax has set for itself, in a swift and time-sensitive way. The restaurant will continue to serve dinner seven nights a week.

If things go according to plan, Jax will reopen its doors in LoDo the weekend of January 18, with lunch service beginning on Monday, January 21.

· Travel+Leisure Named Jax One of America's Best Seafood Restaurants [EDen]