Chip Lile, owner of El Rancho Tavern, has purchased Colorado Pongas – renaming it The Garage with the aim of providing a comfortable, large downtown venue for live music.
Lile and four partners worked the past two months on maintenance needs and upgrades for the old, 4,000-square-foot space – adding new lighting, a new sound system, fresh paint and conducted a thorough cleaning of the longtime billiard hall.
“We now have working AC,” said Clinton Holnback, one of Lile’s partners. Other partners are Chris Lile, Chip Lile’s brother; J.R. Spies; and Bobbi Spies.
Billiards will still be a feature at The Garage, which will have a grand opening Friday and Saturday with two concerts each night by blues, funk and R&B performer Garrett Lebeau of Austin, Texas.
“It’s in a great location downtown, but we felt like it needed an update, and a new concept. The Garage name comes from the early 20th century when it served as Durango’s first garage, at least that’s what we think from our research,” Lile said.
Lile and partners plan to decorate and accessorize with garage and auto paraphernalia from the 1900 to 1930 era.
“It’s coming together nicely, but we think of it as a work in progress; we will be adding to it as we go. We want a venue that the entire community feels comfortable at,” Lile said.
Plans for future building improvements include adding a garage door and windows to lighten up the interior and make a more appealing facade. The building remodel will be designed to add and remove billiard tables to adjust the floor for the amount of people expected for a concert.
“This building really is a community asset. It was a movie theater for 60 years. It’s big enough we’ll be able to offer it to the community for things like nonprofit fundraisers, company parties,” said Lile, who remembers seeing “Star Wars” in the building.
When it served as a movie theater, the space had a seating capacity of 500 people. When it served as Pongas, seating capacity was 250 people, but Lile said he has not yet met with the Durango Fire Protection District to determine the final seating capacity for The Garage.
Lile said he’s been working with the city of Durango to improve the safety around the building, where the amount of petty crimes had concerned city of Durango and police officials.
“I competed with Pongas for 20 years, but in recent years, things had changed, and it wasn’t doing the business we thought it could be,” Lile said. “We saw the opportunity to freshen it up. It won’t be Pongas. It will be a different bar with a different clientele.”
Lile said The Garage will serve as a sister business with El Rancho, but he would like to keep the two businesses separate. Some back house personnel will be able to work at both businesses.
“We really will be able to feature live music here in a great venue,” Lile said.