Before Kitty’s South became an adult theater, it was Webber Theater.
The century-old building at 119 South Broadway was merely abandoned until Wade Murphy and Michael Chapyak saw its potential. Surprisingly the men were unaware of the building’s history at first sight.
“I never knew it was anything other than Kitty’s,” says Murphy.
Upon learning that the building was originally Webber Theater, the men saw an opportunity to open a distillery while preserving a bit of history.
Wade Murphy owns Archetype Distillery, where Michael Chapyak is the president and head distiller.
Archetype Distillery marks the building’s second transformation. In 2015 the Denver Department of Community Planning & Development issued a “non-historic” certificate – which means Webber Theater, formerly Kitty’s, could have been demolished.
Murphy and Chapyak decided against building Archetype Distillery from the ground up. The men saw beauty in the remains at 119 South Broadway. Murphy and Chapyak searched for pieces of Webber Theater that they could keep alive. A decade of elements including fire and water damage stripped most of the building’s original components.
“We basically bought a husk of a building,” Murphy says, “it was a shell with a sloped floor and charred walls.”
The men were surprised to find the Webber Theater marquee intact when they pulled the Kitty’s South marquee away. The half-moon marquee with metal bands tells onlookers that something special used to be there. Instead of covering the brick walls inside, the distillery preserved them.
“The visible brick walls compliment the industrial theme of Archetype and it keeps Webber Theater alive,” Chapyak says.
The men also found a way to fulfill the building’s original purpose – giving a platform to the arts community.
Because the distillery fills a fraction of the building, the men had enough space to build a second level for private and public event reservations – that could include art gallery presentations and exhibits.
“We want it to be multifunctional with not just one genre of art. We want to encompass all that’s out here now - everything from the cool street art and murals that are going up around the city to fine art and modern art. It’s a chance for the community and even international community to come in and check what Denver’s about,” Chapyak says.
The distillery has a unique atmosphere too. Unlike most distilleries that encourage patrons to taste the product and move on, Archetype Distillery has a tasting room with a New York City vibe.
Patrons can relax as they taste Archetype’s vodka or gin through cocktail selections. The presence of music in the tasting room is another appealing component.
Archetype Distillery will open for the first time at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 24. Murphy and Chapyak are excited about the new establishment’s contribution to Broadway.