In the heart of Denver, an ingenious visionary is reshaping the city’s party scene with a vengeance. Meet Josh Schmitz, the mastermind behind Handsome Boys Hospitality, a Denver-based group that’s ushering in a new era of nightlife on Market Street. Unapologetically local and staunchly eccentric, Schmitz and his team have turned the 1900 block of Market Street into an all-in-one playground for the city’s discerning drinkers and dancers.
Schmitz never intended to enter the bar industry. He was a clothing designer with a mission to create a unique boutique experience for his brand, Ruckus. As luck would have it, Schmitz stumbled into the world of whiskey and coffee when he realized how much more fun shopping could be with a drink in hand. Thus, Bellwether was born—a streetwear boutique that moonlighted as a whiskey bar, coffee house, and barber shop. Schmitz’s transition from streetwear savant to service-industry standout had begun.
Fast forward to today, and Handsome Boys Hospitality has become an eclectic powerhouse of Denver’s nightlife. Schmitz, along with business partners Mat Haberman and Brandon Jundt, have breathed life into an array of entertaining concepts that have earned cult followings, from a disco tiki disco club to a horror-themed dive bar to a putt-putt palace in RiNo to a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pizza parlour on Broadway. Not to mention the range of Halloween and Christmas pop-up bars in between.
But with the opening of the latest project on Market Street, the Handsome Boys are bringing a ton of local culture and knowhow to a strip filled with out-of-state sameness.
With an opening day that coincided with the Colorado Rockies’ Opening Day on April 6, HBH’s new endeavor is a 32,000-square-foot space housing five separate concepts, each as unique as the last—but don’t think it’s just another food hall. If you’re looking for one of those, Dairy Block is three blocks in one direction; Denver Central Market eight or so in another. And don’t think of it as yet another testosterone-heavy hideaway for dude-bros. If that’s what you’re after, you won’t have to go far—plenty of spots where you can send your discretionary income out of state just down the street from Handsome Boy’s new Ballpark hotspot.
But if you’re looking for a spot that’s got all sorts of Denver flavor and a whole lot of flair, you can find it between 1937 and 1949 Market Street in the former homes of El Tejano, Loaded, and Smash Face Brewing.
“We’re basically building our own ecosystem—you can go bar hopping but you’re still under our roof,” Schmitz explains. The list of venues includes Con Safos, a “Mexican party bar” with a food program focused on tacos and Mexican sushi; Agua Bendita, a mezcaleria speakeasy hidden inside Con Safos; Jaguar Room, a dance club working with Global Dance to bring renowned DJs and acts to the venue; El Patio, a rooftop bar with its own menu and strong aesthetic appeal (not to mention bellini towers); and Tony Tenderonis, a casual eatery in the old Smash Face building specializing in chicken fingers, crinkle-cut fries, beer, and sports.
Schmitz’s unconventional path into the hospitality industry has imbued his creations with a sense of uniqueness that’s hard to replicate. When asked what separates HBH’s establishments from others in the market, Schmitz says, “Well, to be honest, the existing market does a pretty good job of doing that for us because they’re so bad at their jobs.”
He stresses the importance of creating a unique atmosphere and experience for customers that goes beyond simply slinging food and drinks. “When you’re in a Handsome Boys place, it’s pretty recognizable that what we do is different,” he says.
Schmitz’s self-proclaimed “psychopath” nature seems to be a driving force behind HBH’s continued success. “I’m way more of a visionary-bird’s-eye guy,” he admits. “I’m a psycho. I am diagnosed hypomanic. I’m manic a lot, I only sleep like two hours a day, and so I’m always on the go.” It’s this relentless energy and curiosity that has propelled Schmitz and his team to constantly innovate and push the boundaries of what’s possible in the hospitality industry.
When asked about the future and the impact he hopes to make on Denver’s hospitality scene, Schmitz is humble yet ambitious: “I just hope that when people come into any of our spots that they have a good time.”
Josh Schmitz and Handsome Boys Hospitality are showing the world that when it comes to a good time, there’s always room for a touch of madness.