Hayden Fawna Odom doesn’t yet have enough food to offer a full menu or enough money to pay her staff of four volunteers. But her HiWay Bar is open again, and that’s what matters most.
“It’s great to see all these people again,” Odom said as she cooked a trio of hamburgers for patrons in the bar Sunday, sounding more jovial than she did last month when she learned the bar was closing. “I’m likin’ this a lot.”
Odom reopened the historic establishment Thursday night immediately after she obtained a temporary liquor license from the town of Hayden, and she and a staff of dedicated volunteers are taking “baby steps” to move the bar past its recent turmoil.
The bar that has served as a gathering place for West Routt County residents since the mid-1930s closed suddenly Dec. 22 when the Colorado Department of Revenue seized the business to recover nine months-worth of unpaid sales taxes and wage withholdings from Andrea and Kendal Wheat, the bar’s previous operators who planned to close the bar because it wasn’t making a profit. Not able to imagine their town without the HiWay Bar, Hayden residents rallied earlier this month and raised $10,000 to pay off the debt and reclaim the bar from the state.
Now, an energized Odom is attempting to make the bar sustainable again.
“The town of Hayden is giving me a second chance, and I won’t let them down,” she said. “I love this place so much.”
Back to western flair
Odom, who previously owned the bar from 1990 to 2010 before passing the reins to the Wheats, said she is working to restore a “western” flair to the 136 E. Jefferson Ave. location. A full menu featuring comfort food will be available in as soon as two weeks, Odom said, and the bar will stay open from 10 a.m. to close seven days per week. The bar currently serves cheeseburgers, potato salad and hot dogs.
“We’re going to bring it back to the way it was before,” she said, adding the staff is planning to host a grand opening party sometime next month. “This is a place where everybody knows your name.”
That was true Sunday when a steady stream of longtime patrons once again took seats in the bar for burgers, beers and coffee.
“It’s pretty darn nice to be back,” said Herb Montieth, 80, as he poured a cup of coffee at the back of the bar.
Montieth has been a patron of the bar since he “came of age” six decades ago.
But the HiWay Bar also is a gathering place for younger patrons like 16-year-old Garrett O’Hanlon.
“The history of this place actually makes Hayden worth something,” O’Hanlon said as he put a fresh coat of paint on the front door of the bar Sunday. “It’s somewhere you can hang out.”
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com