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Fort Lupton’s Wholly Stromboli opens Speakeasy nightclub beneath restaurant

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Prohibition-theme event center welcomes parties and weddings

By Ben Wiebesiek

FORT LUPTON — The secret entrance to the club is at the back of the building, where a doorman opens a small window in the door to demand the password.

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If you say, “Swordfish,” you’re golden, and the door will open welcoming you to the speakeasy in the basement. Otherwise, it’s “hit the bricks!”

Wholly Stromboli, at 410 Denver Ave., has opened a new event center beneath the restaurant, and already several businesses and city groups have used the Speakeasy for their parties.

“Swordfish has been the most popular password,” owner Melissa Rickman said. The staff works to create the Prohibition atmosphere, which includes the doorman and the password.

The Speakeasy at Wholly Stromboli Event Center and Nightclub, is the full name of the site, and it’s under the same management as the restaurant, but Rickman said she views it as a separate entity.

The Speakeasy is a fitting theme for the building, which was built in the years leading up to Prohibition.

“It burned down in 1912, St. Patrick’s Day, three in the morning,” Rickman said. “Edward St. John was the owner at the time, so he rebuilt it later that year.”

The building has had new owners and businesses since then, including the former home of the Fort Lupton Press.

“It’s changed hands a lot of times,” Rickman said. “At one point it was used for storage of onions, tomatoes and beets for the cannery. That’s when it was owned by Bud Penfold. In the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, it was a home improvement store. Karen Honstein owned it, and her showroom was down here, and from what I hear, it was very, very nice. But it never was a speakeasy.”

There’s a few new prohibitions now in the 21st century – like most public places in the state, customers can’t smoke inside – but the rest of decor is inspired by the styles of the roaring twenties.

The success of the restaurant upstairs gave the Rickman’s an opportunity to add the event center, but it took nine months of hard labor to clear and clean the old basement.

“It was basically rubble in the beginning,” Rickman said. “It was literally a mess; there was a bedroom in the back; there were remnants of the early ‘80’s: seafoam green and sponge paint.”

The new decorations include subtle but fun nods to the infamous speakeasy culture of the past, including fake money bags tucked into the bricks, pin-up girls posing in pictures in the men’s room, and “autographed” photos from household names such as Al Capone and Bugsy Siegel.

“Wholly Stromboli, class act. Can I get a dame with one of the ‘Boli Girls?” Cary Grant asks in one of the “signed” photos.

The Speakeasy at Wholly Stromboli will host a Valentine’s Day event this month with a buffet including beef brisket and a chocolate fountain. Customers will also enjoy the live music and entertainment of Steven St. James, who performs crooner songs in the style of the Rat Pack.

Ol’ Blue Eyes would be proud.

For more information about booking the Speakeasy for events, call 303-857-2252.