For Colorado native Lisa Ruskaup, bridging old and new Denver has become a trademark. This longtime local restaurant consultant has worked on projects including Breckenridge Wynkoop pubs and mezzanines at Denver International Airport. But only in recent years has she started her own food and beverage businesses.
Ruskaup opened Carbon Cafe & Bar and Habit Doughnut Dispensary in 2015 in the 108-year-old Zang Building on Platte Street. On Friday, she unveils her third concept, Dead Battery Club, in the not-yet 2-year-old WeWork building located down the street at Platte and 17th.
Inside this all-day cocktail and food lounge, the new building’s walls are covered in old city architectural renderings, Platte Street graffiti pieces, a dead technological device installation, one quote from the poet Nikita Gill, and portraits of Coco Chanel and Charles Bukowski. Ruskaup calls the Dead Battery Club, as well as her other spaces, “a tech and lit mashup.”
In another time in Denver, Jack Kerouac hung out in the haunts of this very street. Later poets and artists frequented the former Paris on the Platte, where Carbon and Habit now serve coffee and doughnuts. Across Platte Street, century-old buildings are interspersed with brand new startups and coworking spaces, from which Dead Battery Club will draw its clientele. But Ruskaup looks to the past for inspiration.
“Until the late ‘80s, all of Denver was under viaducts,” she explains, adding, “We want to suck people back ... into that beautiful grittiness of our past.” The club converts a small corner space inside the WeWork building into a velvet-textured and jewel-toned hangout. “I design from a feminine perspective,” Ruskaup says. “If you get women, then you get everyone.”
Her bar program, designed by Karl Schwender, hinges on a day-to-night balance of coffee and cocktails. Among the latter offerings, the Lithium combines rye, caffe amaro, orange bitters, demerara sugar, and rum-burnt coffee beans. The fiery redhead is made with strawberry, tequila, hell-fire bitters, lime, and sugar.
Just as important, Dead Battery’s food is prepared by Denver chef Scott Parker, who previously worked at Table Six and just recently left Idaho Springs’ Westbound & Down Brewery. Here Parker has created day-to-night transitional menu items from bar snacks to buns and boards for sharing. There’s Spanish jamón shaved from the leg and drizzled with olive oil, crudité with perfectly poached eggs and crackers, and smoked trout with cream cheese schmear and avocado.
Back to the space and its most prominent writing on the wall: “You are a dangerous collection of all my favorite things. An old soul, a heart of gold and hands that make my body sing.” Ruskaup hopes that quote from Nikita Gill, and the lounge as a whole, inspires customers to unplug, recharge, and converse — “to make people just enjoy each other.”
Status: Dead Battery Club is now open at 2420 17th Steet, Suite 103. Hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 7 a.m. to midnight Thursday-Friday, 10 a.m. to midnight on Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays. For more information, visit the website.