A decade-long run for a trendsetting restaurant is no small feat in Denver’s dining scene. And by the time Colt & Gray — together with its sister concepts Ste. Ellie and Viande — closes on Platte Street later this month, it will have lasted nearly 10 1/2 years in business.
The restaurant, underground speakeasy and butcher will close at 1553 Platte St. after dinner service on Saturday, Dec. 21.
“It is with great sadness and consternation that I inform you that Colt & Gray, Ste. Ellie and Viande will be closing on December 21, 2019, with our 11th annual Drink the Bar Dry celebration,” owner and chef Nelson Perkins wrote on the restaurant’s social media pages Wednesday night.
On Thursday, he told The Denver Post that his business problems began about a year ago.
“It really started with our lease negotiations,” he said. “Our prices basically doubled … I took on some painful situations and financial burden to make sure we stayed open through the end of the year.”
While restaurant owners often point to failed lease negotiations leading to their closure, Perkins, who previously worked in finance, says he understands both sides of the equation.
“I don’t expect landlords or vendors to lower their prices,” he said. “It’s just becoming difficult for restaurants, not to open, but to survive and to really thrive (in Denver).”
Back when Colt & Gray opened, in the summer of 2009, Perkins and his wife, Allison Perkins, wanted the restaurant to follow in the tradition of the British gastropub. They served nose-to-tail cuts of house-butchered hogs alongside craft beer and cocktails. By 2013, they debuted a swanky below-ground bar serving one of the best burgers in town alongside the bar team’s expert mixed drinks.
During those first years in business, The Denver Post reviewed Colt & Gray twice, giving it 2 1/2 stars (of four) in 2009, and 1 1/2 stars in 2012.
“Colt & Gray is still finding its feet on two fronts: service and salt,” critic Tucker Shaw wrote of his chief complaints early in 2009. Those issues were still present, according to critic Bill Porter, a few years into the business.
But in that first review, Shaw characterized the spot as “a very good addition to the Denver dining scene, perfectly situated in its neighborhood, and it deserves to stick around.”
It did thrive by many measures. For Perkins, the highlight of his restaurant’s tenure became its roster of graduating staff, many of whom “have moved on to better and better positions in life,” he wrote on Facebook. They’ve opened some of Denver’s new guard of trendsetting restaurants, from Julep to Morin.
“I could name a thousand names, we’ve had so many great people through here,” he added.
But as new Denver restaurant epicenters rise in areas like River North Art District, Platte Street has experienced change on another scale.
As of 2018, the two-block span separating downtown from Highland saw 450,000 square feet in new commercial real estate, built in less than a five-year period.
“I think in the long run Platte Street is going to be great … but I feel like we’ve been under construction for three years, and that does not help the business,” Perkins said.
Then there are the other inevitable changes after a decade in business. “There are a lot of restaurants right now in Denver, and it’s hard to stay the cool guy forever,” he said.
On Dec. 21, Perkins and his staff will host the 11th annual Drink the Bar Dry night, a borrowed English tradition of cleaning the pub lines that turned into a yearly holiday celebration at Colt & Gray.
Leading up to it this year will be sadness, but also relief.
“There was always some thrill (in the restaurant business), because you never knew what was going to happen on any given night,” Perkins said, adding, “You know, I’m so proud of everything that’s happened here.”
Colt & Gray and Ste. Ellie will stay open through Dec. 21, 1553 Platte St., 303-477-1447, coltandgray.com
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Nearly 11 years ago we started on an adventure with idea of bringing a new style of dining to Denver. The concept was not a simple one: We wanted to bring the concepts of both farm-to-plate and nose-to-tail to our market. However, it didn’t stop there. We also wanted to add fine wine, craft beer, and an extensive cocktail program to the mix. We hoped to play off the concepts that were growing in Great Britain, the Gastro Pub. In addition, we packaged all of this in beautifully designed space, in what we hoped would be an up and coming neighborhood. We were among the earliest to execute in house curing from our first day of operation. With great effort we succeeded in building the concept that became Colt & Gray. One could argue that we were the first restaurant anywhere in America to combine all these concepts into one establishment. Five years later we added Ste. Ellie as a modern “speakeasy” and Viande as an in-house butcher and curing facility. We also added a much-needed private dining space. We built what we believed to be the perfect space for throwing an amazing dinner party every night! It is with great sadness and consternation that I inform you that Colt & Gray, Ste. Ellie, and Viande will be closing on December 21, 2019, with our 11th annual Drink the Bar Dry celebration. None of this could have been accomplished without amazing employees who always wanted to grow and evolve. Many of these employees have moved on to better and better positions in life and that is perhaps the result of which I am most proud. The staff has always worked hard, been eager to learn, and loved the creative process we embraced. Colt & Gray has been my greatest passion, outside of my family, for more than a decade. I want to thank you for all for supporting Colt & Gray. Colt & Gray, Ste. Ellie, and Viande have been a great success, changing the dining scene in Denver forever and creating a generation of successful young people, both in and out of the restaurant industry. Thank you, Denver, for all your support, and please come celebrate with us! Cheers, Nelson D. Perkins Executive Chef/Owner Colt & Gray | Ste. Ellie | Viande
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