February, the Month of Love Lost

BY Gabriela Reyes

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February, a month heralded as a celebration of love and affection holds a different tune for Denver’s restaurant community this year. Namely, the loss of four institutions in the last week alone: Avelina, Mama Lolita’s Mexican, Three Saints Revival, and Il Posto. 

“We opened Three Saints Revival in late 2021 to provide guests with a much-needed oasis from their homes, a place filled with colors and flavors that brought joy to people as they emerged from their COVID hibernation,” said Robert Thompson, CEO of Angevin & Co., which ran the restaurant. “The response was what we’d hoped, operating and design awards, and positive reviews right out of the gate, but downtown didn’t recover.”

Thompson blames the decline on the staggeringly low office building occupancy, a sentiment reflected in another downtown staple, Avelina. 

“We lost thousands and thousands of dollars trying to stay open after COVID,” wrote Kevin Jennings, founder of Avelina. “Lodo offices are empty and we can’t even do half of the sales we were achieving before COVID.”

wall with a man painted on it
Il Posto may be closing, but visit its owner next door at Vero. | Photo by Il Posto

For the other two heartbreaking closures, Il Posto in RiNo and Mama Lolita’s Mexican in Broomfield, the reason for shuttering isn’t 100-percent clear. However one place mentioned it had to do mainly with landlord issues. This is something that’s taken other beloved spots from the Denver dining scene, including Beast + Bottle in 2021 and Welton Street Cafe in 2022, though the latter is working on reopening in a new space. 

These closures mark not just an end to a chapter, but a reflection of the broader challenges facing Denver’s culinary scene. One of those problems? Food delivery apps and meal kits. While convenient, these alternatives strip away the ambiance and social aspect that once defined the allure of dining out, leaving restaurateurs grappling with diminished revenues and uncertain futures. 

Moreover, the evolving landscape of downtown Denver adds another layer of complexity. Downtown Denver was once a hub of activity, filled with bars and nightlife options. It’s a contrast to the city of today as it now contends with an escalated homeless population and dwindling office occupancy rates. 

Despite the lack of offices, rising rental rates loom for restaurateurs. The financial strain, compounded by escalating food costs and operational challenges, underscores the delicate nature of the industry’s future. Still, amid the trials and tribulations, a glimmer of rebirth remains. 

As February unfolds its bittersweet tale of love and loss, the spirit of restaurateurs and their unwavering commitment to their craft stand as a testament to the enduring allure of Denver’s restaurants.

colorful plates of tacos and a chile relent
Though it doesn’t make up for losing Mama Lolita’s, Rosita’s is also a family run joint. | Photo by Linnea Covington

The resilience of Denver’s restaurant community, buoyed by unwavering support from patrons and innovative adaptation, hints at a path forward. The hope with the Michelin Guide’s arrival is it will officially mark Colorado as a culinary destination, and there are still the brave and talented that will open new concepts and/or expand.  

Until then, mourn the loss of these four spaces by going out and trying something new. If you’re an Il Posto fan, visit their sister restaurant Vero, located down the block inside Denver Central Market. For Mama Lolita’s following, the family-run Rosita’s New Mexican Kitchen in Westminster may scratch that itch. Mercantile in Union Station resides near Avelina, and serves a type of New American fare to compliment what has been lost. Finally, for those who enjoyed the eclectic menu and vibrant setting of Three Saints Revival, Linger in LoHi isn’t too far away and welcomes you with open tables. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gabriela Reyes

Gaby has been part of the Denver/Boulder food scene since 2015 when she moved to Colorado. While gradually losing her ability to eat due to six years of misdiagnosed food allergies, she became fascinated with the culinary scene. Gaby, aka The Restaurant Encyclopedia, has been DiningOut’s restaurant coordinator for food festivals since 2017 and joined the editorial team in 2022.

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