By Lindsay Nichols
If you don’t know where to find it, there’s a good chance you might walk right by the newest jazz lounge to pop up in downtown Fort Collins – Ace Gillett’s – and not even know it. Gillett’s opened its doors in March, 2010, and it didn’t take long for many locals to hear about this hidden gem through the grapevine, discover the somewhat incognito entrance below the Armstrong Hotel and walk down the mysterious stairs to find this treasure. When you get there, you find yourself in a room from which smooth jazz emanates and martinis are the drink of choice, in a place where people have found that they simply can’t stay away.
The atmosphere of Ace Gillett’s is intoxicating even before you have a drink, which can be dangerous (in a good way, of course). This sexy, mysterious lounge is filled with authentic jazz music, and once you enter and experience the laidback vibe, you might never want to call it a night. Ray Harvey, lounge manager and bartender, is extremely pleased, as this was his vision for Ace Gillett’s.
“I want people to have an experience that changes their lives in magical and mysterious ways, so they just keep coming back,” Harvey says.
In a perfect description of Ace Gillett’s, Harvey explains, “You feel like you just walked onto the set of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”
Many regulars of the dark, retro-style lounge would surely agree. The intimate setting lends itself to an “eclectic and diverse clientele,” says the staff. On any given night you might find everything from CSU jazz geeks and twenty and thirty-somethings to middle-aged couples, hotel patrons, groups of girlfriends and couples enjoying date night sitting at the bar and the candlelit tables enjoying music and conversation over a handcrafted drink or a bottle of wine.
The speakeasy-style jazz scene at Ace Gillett’s is authentic and offers free live music Wednesday through Saturday from 8pm – midnight. Piano player Ben Haugland was recently nominated for a jazz Grammy and is an Ace Gillett’s entertainment staple. On Wednesday’s Haugland is joined by pianist and singer Kate Skinner. On Fridays and Saturdays he is joined by a full band that includes drums, upright bass and horns. Drummer John Olson is credited as the leader and organizer of the music; he recruits guest musicians from around the entire region.
“The jazz at Ace Gillett’s solidifies the mood and the retro-feel,” Harvey attests.
Ace Gillett’s prides itself on having the best absinthe liquor selection in town. Customers can peruse their cocktail menu that includes concoctions like “Manhattan Sidecars” and several variations of martinis. And the menu doesn’t stop there. The diverse cuisine is Mediterranean-influenced and there’s something for everyone – various tapas (small-style munchies), flatbread pizzas, salads, unique specialties (including the delectable crab mac ‘n’ cheese), and desserts, which are all reasonably priced.
Ace Gillett’s is just what Fort Collins needs. The seven-day-a-week Happy Hour from 4-6pm features $5 sidecars and glasses of wine as well as $2 local drafts. That’s reason enough to give it a try – Who knows, maybe it will change your life in magical and mysterious ways.