Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

New year, new ownership at the Niwot Tavern


January 8, 2020 | View PDF

Tony Santelli

Niwot Tavern's new owners, (left to right) Stacy Szydlek and Tara Kpogoh-Narh feel at home behind the bar and running the business.

Tara Kpogoh-Narh said when the owners of the Niwot Tavern came to her to gauge her interest in buying the bar-restaurant, "I told them absolutely, mostly because it's my house and I've lived there for 14 years. I didn't want someone to come in and buy it from underneath me and take my house from me."

As of the first day of the new decade, the Niwot Tavern is officially owned by a partnership of existing owner Tony Santelli, Kpogoh-Narh, and Stacy Szydlek.

Kpogoh-Narh has been managing the enterprise for most of her tenure and Szydlek has been on board for three years bartending and managing shifts. Recently she's also taken on advertising and marketing responsibilities.

Fifteen years ago, Bob Russell and Gary Zarlengo, along with Santelli, purchased the business and changed the name from Flanagan's to the Niwot Tavern.

For the majority of the time Kpogoh-Narh has worked at the Tavern, in addition to bartending, she's been in charge of hiring, ordering for the front of the business, paying bills, and general operations.

"I wouldn't have purchased it if I didn't have the staff that I have now that have been with me a long time," Kpogoh-Narh said. "Juan Reyes, my kitchen manager, has been with us almost 14 years with the exception of a little break, and one of my cooks has been here 15 years from the very beginning. Jessica Hinton is going on 6 years,"

Kpogoh-Narh's passion lies in the connections she's instrumental in facilitating. If someone needs a roofer, an artist, or a place to live, she likely has a link to just the right person to fit that bill.

That level of commitment and love for the business - both for its employees and customers - is evident, so it was natural for the previous owners to be sure Kpogoh-Narh was one of the new proprietors.

"Over the past 15 years, the Tavern team has become my extended family," Santelli said. "And I am so happy that with the sale, we keep it in the family. Tara and Stacy will ensure the Tavern remains the Cheers-like gathering place that our customers have come to love and appreciate."

Bob Russell wrote, "I have very mixed feelings about selling the Tavern. Owning the Tavern for 15 years has been a much loved effort to provide our customers with great food and great value while making the Tavern a friendly, comfortable meeting place for individuals and families.Tara and Stacy have been an integral part of the efforts to constantly improve the Tavern environment. I am so happy they have decided to now take on the responsibility of ownership and continue with the Tavern traditions."

Kpogoh-Narh said buying the business on her own would have been a scary venture. Thankfully, the support of her "amazing" husband Richard while she worked longer hours made it manageable, and partnering with Szydlek made perfect sense and was a great solution for structuring the purchase.

"I just would like everyone to know how grateful we are to be given this opportunity," Szydlek wrote. "Thanks to all of our customers, friends, and family for their support. But most importantly, we're so blessed to have the wonderful staff that makes the Tavern what it is."

The ongoing presence of Santelli is another factor that Kpogoh-Narh credits for allowing her leap into ownership to feel palatable. "He's helped and supported me all along the way," Kpogoh-Narh said. "I wasn't ready to lose Tony. He's always there to listen and help no matter where he is or when I call him."

The Tavern is continually evolving, Kpogoh-Narh said, and customer feedback and suggestions are very welcome and encouraged. For now, some painting and patio improvements are being discussed, but there will be no fundamental changes as a result of the new ownership. Menu options will stay the same, and seasonal items will continue to be added to freshen up the offerings.

"I have had the pleasure of working with two great partners these past 15 years along with all of the tavern staff we have employed during that time," Zarlengo wrote. "I am very pleased that Tara and Stacy are acquiring the business and know they will continue to enhance the welcoming and family-friendly environment we have all worked so hard to establish."

Upcoming special events include a celebration of the Tavern's 15th anniversary Jan. 12 through 15, and Robert Burns Day, an annual party that will be held on Jan. 25.


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