Boise’s Ted Challenger
Article by Nicole Christensen Pettinger, Photo by Kesey Badgett
Sitting on the sleek, revolutionized, modern patio of Ted Challenger’s newest brainchild “Amsterdam Lounge”, we finish a warm conversation where we were enveloped into the cozy sunken couch, with enclosed glass fire before us, and a much needed moment of relaxed fulfillment takes over. Heading to the door to check on the last remaining guests, he is immediately surrounded and spontaneously lifted in song “For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow” by five grown men.
Challenger has been a steady staple on the downtown scene for decades now, as owner of The Bistro—now the swanky Amersterdam Lounge—Dirty Little Roddy’s, and China Blue. “I love to greet people at the front of my clubs. You learn a lot of information right by the door.” Challenger’s consistent presence with guests has allowed conversation to begin, relationships to grow, and life-lasting memories to occur. “This has become a creative outlet for me. I enjoy reinventing myself all of the time and never rest on my laurels. I am passionate about this, and Amsterdam Lounge is where I’d choose to drink of all of my places. I have always been the guy that would rather throw the party than participate, it’s more comfortable. This to me is exciting, because people, customers of 20 years ago, are now coming back and saying, ‘I get to come in and enjoy this place again!’”
Amsterdam Lounge has been pieced together over twenty years, starting of all places with a fateful cruise. The artwork and essence of his encounters has selectively laid the foundation for this endeavor. With mind-blowing art by various artists filling the space, colorful tulip-planked recessed 6 foot lights, crimson red tulip and white bauble chandeliers, white leather seating, adventurous seating hide-aways, encased wall fire-places, and accents of copper and gold, Amsterdam Lounge is a must visit destination for the summer. The enormous mural on the upper bar-wall is a replication of one Challenger loved in Amsterdam. The intricate mosaic of Bob Marley on the lower level of adjoining vintage arcade and adult coffee shop 21 & Cup, includes his favorite quote, “The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.”
“I am always growing. I have embraced vulnerability. I didn’t know much about cocktails, so I surround myself with people that are smarter and better. That’s a big step,” Challenger says. An eccentric cocktail menu is ever-present at Amsterdam Lounge. “Try an Old-Fashioned or our Ginger Lemongrass Martini. I am hyper focused on this. Why do people go out? For the whole experience here—it is a good way to meet people, rub elbows, and have a good time. Our whole space is open-space all of the time, so for coffee you can sit for hours and have room. The coffee at 21 & Cup is Fonte Seattle. I sampled 50, and this is the most robust.”
“What I am good at is this. I see it as theater. I set the light, sound, art, and the guests are the actors. I love to sit in the back row and watch. I need to wonder ‘what’s going to happen tonight?’ Yes, there is pressure to see me fail. I thrive off of that. You are only as good as your team,” he says as he throws his shoulder around one of his bartenders, exchanging a warm smile of respect. Challenger was on his knees staining each plank of the floor, and shoulder to shoulder he stands with his team, for a true leader knows you lead alongside.