Sequel for Thunder & Buttons underway
Possible late-October return for popular restaurant/nightclub that closed in ‘91 fire
It's coming back.
Thunder & Buttons, one of the most popular restaurants/nightclubs on the Westside through the '80s and early '90s, will reopen - possibly by the end of October - at its former location at 2415 W. Colorado Ave.
The new name will be Thunder & Buttons II.
Partnering in the enterprise are Barb Huggett Walker, an Air Force Academy graduate and United Airlines pilot who says she came to “love the charm of a pub” when stationed in England; and Kevin Johnson, who has previously worked as a chef, manager or sales rep for restaurants in California's Silicon Valley and on the Colorado Springs Westside.
Key staff members are Chef Lars Seebohm, who trained initially in Salzburg, Austria; and bar manager Steve Wylie, formerly of the Wayfarer British & Irish Pub downtown.
The goal is to have a restaurant/nightclub that appeals to a broad segment of the community. Preliminary plans call for a menu ranging from burgers to “upscale” cuisine; entertainment including bands, comedians, karaoke and “trivia nights”; and a full bar that also offers low-carb beers and a respectable wine list.
The location is no accident. Edward “Whitey” Pine, who started the original T&B's in 1979, still owns the building and said he is happy to see the club being revived by “genuine people” who, he thinks, will earn the appreciation of a sometimes hard-to- please Westside clientele.
Walker, of the AFA Class of '84, said she was a patron of the old T&B's, chiefly in her cadet days, and was sorry when it closed. “You walk in here, and the charm calls out to you,” she said.
In her United job, she serves as a co-pilot on Boeing 777 passenger jets, normally flying between San Francisco and Asia three or four times a month. Before leaving the Air Force in '92, she flew T-43s out of Sacramento and also refuelers for Stealth bombers.
The new Thunder & Buttons logo reflects Walker's background. It features an attractive female aviator in front of a bi-plane. Walker said the idea came from her 13-year-old daughter, who saw in “Thunder” the roar of a plane in flight and in “Buttons” the patches or medals a flyer would wear.
Pine's original T&B's logo had shown two elk - one named Thunder, the other Buttons - pulling a carriage. He said he has no problem with a new logo, because it represents the bar's new owners.
Other than working in a restaurant before her Air Force career, this is Walker's first go at the restaurant business. She'll be counting in part on Johnson's experience to run things. “I've worked as everything from a busboy on up,” he commented.
Walker and Johnson reported good response so far from the business community, adding that the area bars especially have been supportive.
The same can be said of the public in general. Since Walker and the others started fixing up the interior, numerous passersby have been sticking their heads through the open windows to ask what's going on. “They get excited to hear it's reopening,” she said.
The Thunder & Buttons building is comparable to Meadow Muffins in size, seating 60 people in the downstairs, according to Walker. That's where customers will normally be ushered, with the “overflow” being directed upstairs, she said. The upstairs is about the same size as the lower level, plus it has an outdoors deck.
The location has been vacant for about eight months, since the departure of Beau Jo's, a pizza chain restaurant that had been there for about 12 years, Pine said. Although the Beau Jo's owner is a friend of his, he offered his impression that the business never really connected with Westsiders.
Seebohm said he is enjoying the challenge of transitioning from his most recent employment -a chef for about eight years at clubs in Berkeley, Calif. - and his menu will reflect what he sees in his new home. “People here are into solid values,” he said. For instance, although he plans some fancier offerings, don't expect anything “fru fru,” as he put it. “We're not going to serve salmon tar tar,” he said. “I don't think that would fly too well.”
The business plans to hire 20 to 25 people. Anyone interested should drop by the club and inquire, Walker said.
Johnson added a request for anyone who might have “any memorabilia from the old Thunder & Buttons days” to bring it by. The idea is to make a collage of the stuff.
A sign went up outside the building this week: “Unleash the party…Thunder & Buttons II… Coming soon.” Walker hopes it can be before Halloween. “If it is, it'll be a big night,” she said.
Meanwhile, a lot of interior work is still required, with the management team wearing old clothes and pitching in wherever needed. Seebohm, spotted with a paint pan, quipped that he was “chief cook and bottle washer.”
Although not part of the bar ownership team, Pine is serving as a “mentor,” according to Walker, and is also implementing some of the interior renovations through his business, Pine Construction. A current task is building the first-floor bar. He's probably the best qualified for the task. He built the original one in the same spot 23 years ago. It was removed because of Beau Jo's de- emphasis on liquor.
Pine plans to frame the bar pretty much the same as before. “The plumbing and everything are still there,” he grinned.
Westside Pioneer article