By Jennifer Pund
The Vintage Moose is a small boutique bar in Idhao Springs owned by Mason and Asta Keene, but like its many regular customers, you might as well call it “home.” Situated between the two large parking lots in Idaho Spring, the warm, friendly bar welcomes locals and tourists alike. The comfortable atmosphere, generous drinks and tasty barbecue is the product of the original owner, Ken Douglas, with a lot of input from Mason. It certainly lives up to their slogan, “Tiny Tavern, Big on Bull.”
The Vintage Moose, 123 16th Ave., provides an atmosphere so comfortable, it allows people to instantly feel at home. “Everyone is welcome here, and we treat everyone the same and love everybody that walks in the door. Some we love when they come, some we love when they go.” Mason joked. “We try to be a welcoming, comforting place for everyone. With the size of our place we have the ability to talk and interact with everyone that comes in. We like to be personable and friendly to everybody here. Instead of going somewhere else, you came here and we appreciate it.”
Located between the city’s parking lots near the Charlie Tayler Water Wheel, the Vintage Moose is not just the perfect meeting spot for locals, but its welcoming to tourists as well. “On a Friday night, any time of the year, you are going to have 90 percent locals, but on a Saturday afternoon, especially in the summertime—which is our busiest time of year—it’s going to be 90 percent tourists,” he said. “We are an ideal location since we are right in the middle of the two huge parking lots. There’s parking for people and we’re only a block off main street. We are easily accessible to anywhere in town.”
It’s not just the convenient location and atmosphere that makes the Vintage Moose a popular hangout. Its staff is also very welcoming. “Everybody is very friendly and open here. I mean it’s a place you can walk into and feel like you’re at home,” Mason said. “I have a lot of people come in and tell me this feel like the bar where they come from, back home. We get people from all over the country and all over the world and it’s pretty cool to have someone come in and say, man, I live in the backwoods of Maine and this feels like my hometown bar.”
Mason knows people like to drink what they are used to drinking at home, so he stocks something for everyone.“We have a very wide variety of products because we get a lot of people from out of town and people from all over drink different stuff… and then I also have PBR cans for most regulars.”
The Keenes celebrated their second anniversary of owning the bar in late April, but Mason has been there all along. He was the bar’s first employee, as well as its first manager, hired by Ken Douglas who transformed and reopened the former Ten Day Jack bar at the Vintage Moose in 2010. Becoming owners seemed like a natural next step for the couple.
Since taking over, the couple has been happy keeping most things as they have always been. “I picked out all the booze, helped [Ken] price everything, and I actually hired all of the bartenders that work here. We still have the same staff, pretty much, that we hired from the beginning,” he said. “Every one of my bartenders are amazing—Jessica, John, Red [Eric], and Ann—I couldn’t do this without them. I appreciate them so greatly for all they do. They help this place go round. They are all near and dear to us.”
Mason never aspired to own a bar, but after working at Vintage Moose for more than five years, he began to think it was a good idea. While on a motorcycle ride, he asked Douglas about the possibility of purchasing the business. “Literally one day on the ride, I just said, ‘hey man, if you are ever interested in selling this place, keep us in mind.’ I was thinking two or three years down the road, but he said he had a price in mind and if someone was willing to give him that amount, he’d sell it now.” Soon after, the Keenes were buying a bar.
“I was never really like, ‘Oh, I want to be a bar owner one day.’ It just was the easiest kind of job I was always good at doing, and keeping. It’s easy for me to talk to people; I’m friendly and personable,” Keene said.
There hasn’t been a difference between running the bar and owning it, according to Mason, since he always treated it as if it were his. “I was always in charge when I was an employee. I got to make the decisions, and chose things that got to be done here, and the products we sold, and the people that got to work here. So, it’s kind of weird. I don’t know how to differentiate so much, as far as being an employee to an owner because my role hasn’t really changed. Being the manager, if some one called in or had an issue, I was the one to deal with it.”
The job may be the same, but being the owner does come with a bit more anxiety. “The responsibility has increased, I’m liable for any wrongdoings or bad things that could happen. It’s more the emotional stress,” he said. “I’ve always, since the beginning, treated it as my own to begin with, which helped out with Kenny making the decision to sell it to me. He knew I was going to continue doing what I was already doing.”
The food offerings have stayed the same as well. Anytime the bar is open, patrons can grab a smoked barbecue sandwich or weekend specials like baby-back ribs, smoked chicken wings and pork street tacos. “[The specials] you have to eat fresh when they are made, so they are not on the menu,” Mason said, “but we serve them on Saturdays, and sometimes Sundays if we have enough.”
According to Mason, Douglas used to do competition barbecue. “He was really into it, so his natural thing was to serve barbecue,” he said. “It was part of the bar and I just took it over. I am from Atlanta, so I have some experience with it, but it’s not like it was something that was my forté. It is now, and I enjoy doing it.”
The Vintage Moose’s patio is a popular spot in during warm weather. Douglas and Mason took over the space behind the bar and, with the city’s permission, built an enclosed patio that expands the seating area of the otherwise very small bar. The space is also used to host parties, poker runs or community gatherings like the annual Thanksgiving Day Dinner and the Clear Creek Clean Up, May 14, for no charge. “We have the back patio enclosed room, and I don’t really charge to reserve it. We do birthday parties, retirement parties,” Mason explained. “This will be our second year supporting the river clean up. After the clean up, Tommyknocker [Brewery] donates a keg of beer and then, Da Rivuh does a crawfish boil and we host it here in the back. They get a couple of drink tickets and eat, drink and hang out to party at the bar.”
The Vintage Moose occasionally has live music, including local acts like Kind Mountain Band, regional musicians including David Booker and nationally-touring artists like Shawn Ashby, who plays at the bar June 11. “I wouldn’t say we are a music venue, we don’t really promote a lot of our music… but when it does happen, we try to have quality music,” Mason said. “ David Booker, one of our regulars is English and left handed and plays all blues music and is phenomenal. We have him play five or six time a year. Ashby was the lead guitarist for Sarah McLachlan for 12 years. He’s pretty well-known in the music world… and of all the years he’s been playing, this is one of his favorite places to come because the intimacy of it and people can walk up to him and talk to him and shake his hand and ask him questions. That’s kind of cool.”
Visit The Vintage Moose on Facebook, call 303-567-2357 or e-mail
Vintagemoose1@gmail.com to learn more.
Originally published in the May 2017 issue of the MMAC Monthly