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Where everybody knows your name

Samantha Donen
Matt IndenGypsum resident and former owner of the Brush Creek Saloon, Ron Pirnie stops by for happy hour. The Saloon has expanded its entertainment menu by now offering a variety of live music.
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The Brush Creek Saloon in Eagle has been notorious for 20 years as the hot spot for bar brawls. Now some new owners want to make it the hot spot for good, old-fashioned (and legal) fun.

New owner Hanz Blanar knows many Eagle residents gave up on the bar, which frequently was the source of most of the town’s police calls. When he took over the business in December 2005, Blanar said he firmly implanted a no fighting or abusive behavior rule. During the first six months of ownership, more than 60 customers were 86-ed for life for using drugs and fighting. “I believe a change has started already,” Blanar said, “the last fight was four months ago and since then we haven’t had any more problems.”

With pleasant changes in the atmosphere at the Saloon and improvements to the bar in menu, entertainment, staff, and security, Blanar says, “New faces don’t have anything to be afraid of anymore.”

On a recent Friday night in downtown Eagle, a live band was playing at the Brush Creek Saloon, the only bar on Eagle’s main street, Broadway. A peek through the door showed a crowd dancing to the music of the local band, Thumbs are Huge. Everyone from the doorman to the bartenders were smiling.

If Blanar’s goal is to get new customers in the bar, he appears to be meeting it. One Eagle resident admitted it was her first time at the bar, even though she lived a block away. She had come out only to see the band that night and was surprised to find it was not the scary bar everyone had warned her about. She said she would return again.

“We have been told since we took over that we now have more of a younger crowd than used to be here,” said the new manager, Petra Richards, “because this is their bar, it’s their neighborhood.”

All the changes began for the Brush Creek Saloon when Blanar, a resident of Eagle County for six years, started looking for a bar business to buy in the valley. With help from his brother and sister-in-law, who are bar business owners in California, they bought the Brush Creek Saloon. “It had been on the market for over a year and it became apparent that no one was going to buy this place because it had a bad reputation,” Blanar said. “We saw the opportunity to take the only bar business in Eagle and turn it around, creating a safe neighborhood bar that residents in Eagle could enjoy … instead of fear.”

While changes abound, plenty of things will stay the same. Blanar plans to keep the Saloon looking like an old cowboy bar but, “we have cleaned, repainted, and repaired the bar, including installing smoke eaters along the ceiling.”

The bar owner also is trying to reach a new crowd by installing a big screen TV to host Monday Night Football and other big sporting events. Blanar also upgraded the bars liquor stock to a full bar including wine, adding nine taps of draft beer, and 12 brews of bottled beer, he said.

The bar also hosts a theme party every month with a free band. Last month they had a Hawaiian Party. “One of the girls that bartended here was moving to Hawaii,” Richards said. “So we decided to throw her a going-away party, Hawaiian-style.”

Everyone who came was dressed up in a Hawaiian theme and some girls were in bikinis, she said.

“It was a lot of fun and packed,” she said. “We saw a lot of new faces that night, even some from Summit County. We plan to throw a theme party every month as that was so much fun for everyone.”

Their next party is a Halloween Party on Friday, Oct. 28. Those who get into the holiday spirit by wearing a costume will get in for free; otherwise it’s $2. Psychedelic jam band Fractalia will be playing and there will be prizes for costumes.

“This is a locals’ bar.” Blanar said. “Eagle is not a resort. It is mainly locals that come in. So, we notice when a new face comes in. We welcome seeing these new faces at our bar having fun and feeling safe.”


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