List updated on July 27, 2020
Denver restaurant casualties from the coronavirus pandemic are starting to mount. And counting them can be difficult. Many restaurants closed temporarily during the shutdown, while others continue to offer delivery and takeout. More and more eateries are reopening this month, but others are announcing permanent closures. (Note: This list will be updated frequently.)
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.”
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.
12@Madison 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 lightening 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.”
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.”
MORE: How to make The Market’s famous Spring Fling Cake at home
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.
Racines will close for good after 36 years in 2021. 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, and they will reopen at some point until their final closing date on Jan. 15, 2021. “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.”
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.
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!”
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.
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.
Wendell’s, the Berkeley breakfast staple, 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. In a post on the restaurant’s website, they wrote, “Our team hopes to see your faces around town in the not-so-distant future.”
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