The Blue Moon Bar & Grill is celebrating 30 years in business, having opened on July 20, 1986, which makes it one of the longest-operating businesses in downtown Grand Junction.
Owners Brad and Becky Brehmer met in 1972 while working at The Vault, a popular downtown bar and restaurant that was located on the lower level of the current Alpine Bank building.
They continued to work in the industry when they moved to Aspen, but they eventually returned to Grand Junction, opening their first restaurant, Pablo’s, on the east end of North Avenue. Pablo’s closed unexpectedly, but the Brehmers didn’t give up. Instead, they set their sights on a historic building at the corner of Seventh and Main Streets as the location for their next endeavor.
A checkered past
In the early ’70s, the building housed a clothing store called Red Hot Pants.
“I loved that place. You would walk in to get a pair of jeans and they’d give you a package of Red Hots,” said Western Slope native Hap Jordan.
In 1978, it became the T-Bone Restaurant and Bar, which had a reputation for being a wild hangout for oilfield workers, then 57’s, a ’50s-themed diner that went out of business during the oil bust in the ’80s. The building sat vacant for a couple of years until the Brehmers purchased it.
The couple had difficulty deciding on the perfect name for the restaurant, but inspiration struck when the song “Blue Moon” came on the radio.
“I started doodling the name and I suggested it to Brad,” Becky said.
But neither was completely sold on it until Becky went to City Hall to apply for a liquor license. The clerk, an old friend, told her she couldn’t apply for a license without a business name.
When Becky told the clerk their list of names, she said, “My husband and I met at a place in Kansas City called the Blue Moon Bar & Grill. I love that name!”
Becky wrote “Blue Moon” on the application and the rest is history.
A loyal following
The restaurant’s location at the corner of Seventh and Main has always made it a popular spot to enjoy downtown events from the patio, with a beer or cocktail in hand.
It was quite famous for its full moon parties, held on the Wednesday closest to the full moon. For 20 years, full moon parties kicked off at 5 p.m. with half-priced drinks and appetizers all night long and music from a local DJ.
“We did those for 20 years. A lot of people had a rough day at work on Thursday,” Brad chuckled.
The restaurant was wall-to-wall with people in the hundreds.
“The line was down the block, and people would try and sneak in the back door,” said server Jo Dempsey.
Dempsey, 63, has worked for the Brehmers for 32 years. She started working at Pablo’s and came back to help them open the Blue Moon. She has watched customers from Pablo’s became regulars at The Blue Moon, and loves it when patrons ask specifically for her.
“It’s fun,” she said. “I also love to meet new people and hear their stories.”
Dempsey has worked the same shift for 30 years, and has trained countless servers, watching them become part of the Blue Moon family. Once they leave, they often come back to visit.
Speaking of family, The Blue Moon has many loyal patrons who stop by for a mid-day drink or bring their families in for a meal. The Brehmers and staff have seen generations of customers grow up in the restaurant and bring in families of their own.
Vincent King and his wife Sandra Alexander moved to Grand Junction from Wichita, Kansas in 1991. With the Blue Moon within “crawling distance” from his home, it wasn’t long before he became a regular customer. If Alexander couldn’t reach him at home, she knew where to find him.
These days, they can be found hanging out with the lunch crowd at the Blue Moon every Friday and Saturday, catching up on local affairs with Brad and the staff.
“We love the atmosphere, good drink selection and consistently good food and good service,” Alexander said.
One year, she recalled telling Brad about how they planned to spend their anniversary at the Blue Moon. When they arrived, they were escorted to a table, decorated with a tablecloth, candles and china from the Brehmers’ home. Brad also made them a special, off-the-menu meal.
The restaurant’s menu has pretty much stayed the same over the years, keeping favorites but introducing new dishes through daily specials.
“We have a loyal clientele,” Brad said. “People like dishes that we’ve always been known for.”
Becky spends most of her time at Razzmatazz, the boutique on Main Street, which she opened in 1999. She can still be found hostessing at the Blue Moon on holidays and sometimes during lunch. She still makes the Thursday lunch special, pastitsio.
Brad is a constant fixture during the lunch hour. He seats customers and loves talking local affairs and sports, especially football.
Grand Junction has seen its share of booms and busts, however, The Blue Moon remains a fixture of downtown Grand Junction. Even after 30 years, Brad and Becky have no plans of slowing down.
“Every day is like we opened just yesterday,” Brad said. “Year 31 is no different than year one.”