Cooks prepare food at Acorn as patrons dine at the chef’s table in this file photo from Feb. 10, 2016. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)
List updated on November 25, 2020
Denver restaurant casualties from the coronavirus pandemic are mounting. And counting them can be difficult. Many restaurants continue to close temporarily, while others offer delivery and takeout, and some are open during the Level Red shutdown and winter season with heated outdoor seating. Still many are announcing permanent closures. (Note: This list will be updated frequently.)
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Zolo Grill closed its doors on Nov. 25 after 26 years in Boulder. The restaurant was the first from local owner Dave Query, who went on to open beloved spots like Jax Fish House, The West End Tavern, Lola Coastal Mexican and The Post Brewing Co. “As the eldest of the group, Zolo was a place where we had so many firsts,” Query said. “The culture of hospitality that is deeply rooted in all of our restaurants now, was, in many ways, born at Zolo. Many of our core employees who worked with us for 10, 15, and 20-plus years started at Zolo.” Read more at the Daily Camera.
Bar Helix has permanently closed at its River North location after attempting to raise money publicly in order to stay open. Owner Kendra Anderson and her team launched a GoFundMe account shortly after receiving a notice to vacate the bar’s space. She wasn’t able to raise enough money and change her concept amid tightening coronavirus restrictions. But she says customers can look forward to pop-up events and possibly more this winter.
Julep’s fried chicken was among the best in Denver. (Provided by Julep)
Julep owners Katy and Kyle Foster closed down their Southern restaurant at the end of November after 2 1/2 years in business. Since opening Julep in RiNo, Kyle’s menu had been praised for its authentic interpretations of fried chicken, biscuits and gravy and more Southern comforts. The Fosters also own Stir Cooking School in Denver, and they promise to host occasional pop-ups there, with specials from beignets to po’ boys. (Note that they are still preparing Thanksgiving dinners to-go and fried chicken dinners through the holidays.)
Beet Box, a vegan bakery, shut down just after the announcement of the latest Level Red COVID-19 restrictions in November. Owner Blair Ednie started a GoFundMe page to support his laid-off employees and told CBS Denver that he realized his business model just wouldn’t be tenable moving forward.
The Zephyr Lounge ended a 73-year run on East Colfax in Aurora at the beginning of November. Owner Myron Melnick sold his longtime family property to a developer who will build in its place some 450 units of affordable housing. Melnick cited COVID-19 as the reason for finally pulling the plug on the historic watering hole. You can read more about the train-themed dive bar’s history and its last call over on Westword.
Pete’s Greek Town has remained closed during the pandemic, and now the building is up for lease on East Colfax. One of restaurateur Pete Contos’ lasting contributions to Denver, Greek Town is the first of the family restaurants to close permanently since Contos’ death in 2019. His family continues to operate Satire Lounge, Gyros Place, Central One, University Park Cafe and Pete’s Kitchen in Denver, and the last three of which are still open for business during the shutdown.
Pasta Pasta Pasta lasted for 36 years as a family-owned business in the Cherry Creek neighborhood. In 2019, the restaurant even closed temporarily and sold from its original owners to Vittorio Gallinari, who kept the tradition going, at least until this month. “Sometimes you have to face very difficult decisions,” Gallinari wrote on the business’ website. This is the time: Pasta Pasta Pasta will permanently be closed. Thank you to all our loyal customers for their support during this wonderful journey.”
Zaidy’s Deli shuttered at the end of October after nearly three decades in Cherry Creek. The Rudofsky family operated this and one other Denver deli, serving Jewish comfort foods like matzo ball soup and Reuben sandwiches. “Although this is goodbye, for now, we hope to someday share the legacy and traditions of Zaidy’s Deli with the next generation,” the owners wrote in their goodbye message.
Local 46 closed at the end of October, after more than eight years in the Berkeley neighborhood. For its last month, the bar and music venue is continuing to host outdoor events, including concerts and a final, Halloween party on Oct. 31. The neighborhood bar’s fate first came into question back in April, when building owners applied for a demolition permit. And ahead of what’s sure to be a rough winter for sales, Local 46’s owners reached an agreement with their landlords to end their lease early. Read more at The Denver Channel.
Acorn closed permanently following Labor Day weekend and after seven years as the flagship restaurant of The Source Market Hall. Owner Bryan Dayton said he’ll take the next six to eight weeks to figure out what to do with Acorn’s restaurant space. He plans to open a new concept there by the end of October. Dayton also temporarily closed Acorn’s neighboring dessert shop Melted. His other Denver and Boulder restaurants — Brider, Corrida and Oak at 14th — continue to operate.
American Cultures, a kombucha bar, closed its doors on Sept. 8 after five years in Lower Highland. The bar’s sales had dipped 75% during the pandemic, according to owners Danielle and Noah Brooks, who moved to Steamboat Springs and have taken up yak ranching (but are still making kombucha). You can find their new endeavor, Raddog Ranch, at the Steamboat Farmers Market and at raddogranch.com.
Chef and owner of Jacaranda, Modou Jaiteh, center, puts the finishing touches on a dish while cook Michael Kim, right, watches, inside the new Rosetta Hall on Oct. 13 in Boulder. Jacaranda is a West African food stall owned and operated by Jaiteh, who is originally from Gambia. (Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)
Rose’s Classic Americana, Jacaranda and Confit all recently departed from Rosetta Hall, Boulder’s first food hall, which opened last October. Rose’s owner and “Top Chef” finalist Carrie Baird had debuted her first solo project in March just before the restaurant shutdown. “This isn’t failure for us — we made great food, made great friends and learned many lessons along the way. We will reopen!” Baird wrote of the closing on her business’ Instagram. “Now we need to find our forever home.” Rosetta Hall owner Donovan Greene says a new Saudi Arabian concept and another serving food from Trinidad will replace two of the departing stalls. Already, diners can try out the new Flatiron, a farm-to-table restaurant, and Shanghai Moon, which replaced Ginger Pig earlier this summer.
Leña shuttered at the end of August after six years on South Broadway. The restaurant had been a unique destination in its neighborhood (and the rest of Denver), offering wood-fired Latin American plates and regional cocktails. The pandemic forced its closure, according to a note on Leña’s website: “Due to the circumstances we have been dealt through this difficult environment, we have decided to close our doors.” There was no indication that owners would be looking for another spot to reopen.
Rialto Cafe closed in August after 23 years on Denver’s 16th Street. “There are just not a lot of people downtown anymore,” general manager Amy Anderson explained. Without the draw of theater, concerts, conventions and sporting events, “which have always kind of been our bread and butter,” she said, the restaurant couldn’t survive the summer.
Vesta won’t reopen on Blake Street in LoDo following the coronavirus shutdown and pandemic. Owner Josh Wolkon told The Denver Post that COVID-19 was the nail in the coffin for his destination restaurant that had served Denverites and visitors to the city for 23 years. Wolkon continues to operate his other Denver concepts — Steuben’s and Ace Eat Serve — but he said he worries about the future of fine dining here. Read more in the original story.
Gozo has closed permanently after six years on South Broadway. But the small plates and cocktails spot will eventually be replaced by another concept from the same owner, BusinessDen reports. “We are still making plans on what to do and when, based upon the ever-changing landscape,” owner Curt Sims told that publication. Read more on BusinessDen.
Wendell’s, the Berkeley breakfast newcomer, has closed due to coronavirus after two years in Denver. Opened by the former head chef at Linger, Wendell’s focused on high-end takes on brunch favorites from breakfast poutine to buttermilk pancakes. “Our team hopes to see your faces around town in the not-so-distant future,” owners wrote in a post on the restaurant’s website.
C.B. & Potts Restaurant and Brewery closed four of its five locations across Colorado and sold the Fort Collins restaurant. The brewery began as a college pub in 1974, two blocks from Colorado State University in 1974 and expanded across the state in the 1990s. Though the owner declined to comment on the reasons for this decision, Jeff Iverson Jr. said the closures were related to coronavirus in an email to Westword.
Racines at 650 Sherman St. (Provided by Racines)
Racines announced its permanent closure in July after more than 35 years in Denver. But the timing of the announcement during the coronavirus shutdown wasn’t intentional, owners Lee Goodfriend and David Racine said. They are under contract to sell the land and building at 650 Sherman St. to a developer. “The news of the COVID-19 pandemic and statewide restaurant closures are much more important right now than our future plans,” Goodfriend said in a release. “Unfortunately, the progress of the deal forces us to announce this right now.”
Fresh Fish Company announced at the beginning of July that it would close for good after 40 years in Denver. The locally-owned seafood restaurant struggled to make up for the loss of revenue while paying for overhead at its Hampden Avenue location. “We will deeply miss the opportunity to celebrate those special occasions,” owners Karen Kristopeit-Parker and Tim Bell wrote in a Facebook post. “We are so grateful to all of you for your loyalty and support for all these years!”
Armida’s, the beloved Mexican restaurant and karaoke bar in Capitol Hill, said goodbye at the end of June. The owners announced they would open a new restaurant concept, La Milpa, but without karaoke. The closing hit the neighborhood especially hard as they mourned the decades-old concept known for its raucous karaoke nights.
Old Major closed in mid-June after seven years as a whole-animal butchering, charcuterie-making destination in Lower Highland. Chef and owner Justin Brunson had opened his flagship restaurant after starting Masterpiece Deli and serving as head chef of the since-closed seafood spot Wild Catch. He has gone on to start River Bear American Meats, which supplies restaurants with local beef and other products. Longtime collaborator and chef Amos Watts took over Old Major’s space and opened a new restaurant, The Fifth String, in August.
Nick’s Diner announced on Facebook in June that it would not reopen after seven years in Denver. The restaurant opened at 3743 Federal Boulevard in 2013, the former location of the decades-old Breakfast Queen. Their menu offered a wide variety of Mexican, Greek and American food, including their famous meatloaf.
Meadowlark Kitchen‘s owner Casey Karns announced in early June that his popular Larimer Street hangout won’t reopen following the shutdown. Meadowlark Kitchen lasted over five years above the bar by the same name, bringing diners in late-nights for its legendary Denver burgers and local-favorite back patio. “I can’t even begin to thank everyone that came through and got to enjoy (chef) Josh Bitz’s masterful cooking,” Karns wrote on Facebook. “It’s been my greatest pleasure in life.”
The patio at Punch Bowl Social, Stapleton, which closed during the coronavirus pandemic. (Amber Boutwell, provided by Punch Bowl Social)
Punch Bowl Social Stapleton, the second Denver location of the now national chain, won’t reopen its massive restaurant, arcade, bowling alley and karaoke bar. Founder and CEO Robert Thompson said he couldn’t come to an agreement with the location’s landlord on new lease terms in the current climate. Punch Bowl Social is also closing in Schaumburg, Ill., for the same reason. The original, South Broadway PBS is expected to reopen, though a timeline hasn’t been set.
The Med, Brasserie Ten Ten and Via Perla (Boulder) all closed for good as Walnut Restaurant Group decided not to reopen following the coronavirus shutdown. “We simply cannot continue to run and operate our restaurants with the level of quality and service that we are committed to providing,” owners Joe and Peggy Romano wrote on their restaurants’ websites. The oldest of the three popular downtown spots, The Med, opened in 1993 and was known for its tapas menu, its daily happy hour and its bustling patio.
[email protected] announced its closure, on Colorado’s official restaurant reopening day, after three years in Congress Park. Owner Jeff Osaka continues to run his other Sushi-Rama restaurants, as well as Osaka Ramen and Empire Lounge (in Louisville). “What may end up being left (after coronavirus) is your quick-service or fast food, or a lot of people with deep pockets, your multi-unit operations,” Osaka said. “And, unfortunately, the landscape is going to be a little homogenous or a little bland, I fear.”
Tom’s Diner finally shuttered during the shutdown after a year of back-and-forth discussions over preservation of the 1967 building and the longtime Denver business. While the diner won’t be reopening, the building will stay intact, thanks to its new owner and developer, GBX Group, an Ohio-based real estate company specializing in historic preservation. Read more about the closure on Westword.
Morton’s The Steakhouse permanently closed locations across the country in late May, including its downtown Denver restaurant on Wazee Street. The closure came just a couple of months after sister restaurant the Palm steakhouse closed on Lawrence Street in downtown Denver. National steakhouses have become a lightning rod for disparities in the restaurant industry during the coronavirus. In April, Ruth’s Chris decided to return its $20 million Paycheck Protection loan after facing widespread criticism.
La Cour Denver’s Art Bar is closed, while owners Janet Poth and Joe Monley have listed the French bistro, jazz club and building for sale at 1643 S. Broadway for $975,000, BusinessDen reported. “We are too old to be at the helm for the venue’s next chapter,” Poth wrote of the decision on the restaurant’s Facebook page. “Our sincerest wish is that there are one or two young professionals who would like to take over the business and the venue.”
Biju’s Little Curry Shop closed its last remaining Denver location during the shutdown. The fast-casual South Indian restaurant first opened in RiNo in 2014, before expanding to Tennyson Street and, most recently, Broadway Market. Owner Biju Thomas closed the original location back in October. Broadway Market then followed and the Berkeley location’s tenure ended with coronavirus. 5280 has more.
Scratch Burrito announced its permanent closure at the end of April, after seven years in North Denver. “We fought as hard as we could and realized that having a solvent business would not be possible,” owner Clay Markwell told The Denver Post. “Our sales have been cut down by 52 percent, and in an industry where people run on single-digit margins, the math just doesn’t add up.”
Rodney Okuno is the third-generation owner of the 20th Street Cafe in Denver. The restaurant announced its permanent closure this week. (Instagram screenshot)
20th Street Cafe closed its doors downtown after 74 years and three family generations. “We thought we had a few years left before retiring,” Rod and Karen Okuno wrote of their decision, “but with all that has happened in the world and the economy, we decided that trying to reopen after the pandemic and trying to make a realistic go of it would be impossible.”
The Market at Larimer Square shuttered after more than 42 years. Owner Mark Greenberg said the pandemic sealed his decision to retire. “Life is so uncertain now,” Greenberg said, “and I want to have a few more moments (with family) … . I just wanted to be able to pay my employees what I owed them and not have to go bankrupt. I’m closing like a gentleman, and I feel good about some things and really desperate about other things.”
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Euclid Hall was the first Denver restaurant to announce its closure — after a decade operating in Larimer Square — as the shutdown began. “The cumulative effects of the COVID-19 virus on our business really gave us no choice but to close now,” co-owner Jennifer Jasinski said in a release. “We will continue to explore a new location for Euclid Hall, a concept we all love and are confident in.” The restaurant’s lease was set to expire in August.
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