Sushi-Rama Closes All but One Restaurant

BY Linnea Covington


Some closings hit harder than others, and for my 9-year-old son, Sushi-Rama’s announcement yesterday brought tears and a promise we would visit before his favorite restaurant closed. Yes, after six years Sushi-Rama has decided to close all but one of its locations.

“It was a challenge to operate these and with rents going up, the cost of goods rising, and minimum wage going up, it’s the same story,” said chef and owner Jeff Osaka, who simply did the math and decided most of the restaurants just weren’t performing as they once did. “The return on investment wasn’t there and we were putting much more in than we were getting out.”

In December 2015, Osaka opened his first Sushi-Rama in RiNo, bringing a new light to conveyor-belt sushi service in Colorado. Over six years the restaurateur expanded the concept, opening four more spots in the suburbs of Denver. Now, only the original will remain. 

salmon on an orange plate with lemon
Sake salmon on the conveyor belt at Sushi-Rama. | Photo by Hard Knock Pr (sushi uncovered for picture)

The Fitzsimmons location closed last week after Valentine’s Day. Now the Belleview Station, Lone Tree, and Broomfield spots will shutter come March 8. Aside from more space and ample parking, these four spots also blended Sushi-Rama with Osaka Ramen, which opened as a stand-alone concept in RiNo in May 2015. In the suburbs, diners could grab a two-piece plate sporting a California or a Pumpkin Dragon roll from the moving line up; and then order a bowl of spicy miso ramen and chicken karaage from a server as well. 

The hardest part of the closures, said Osaka, was having to let go of around 80 valued employees. “I tell people it’s easy to fire someone you don’t like, but hard to let people go that you do like,” he added over the phone.

Currently the chef is trying to help the displaced workers find placement at other establishments in his network. As more people find out about Sushi-Rama downsizing, he added, the more restaurants are reaching out to help. 

jeff osaka standing in front of pop art sushi rolls
Chef Jeff Osaka at his original Sushi-Rama in RiNo. | Photo by Hard Knock PR

This isn’t Osaka’s first foray in shuttering a restaurant. Since 2008 he has opened, and closed, the seasonal restaurant twelve, 12@Madison, and The Empire Lounge & Restaurant. Now Osaka will be able to focus energy on these last two remaining places, something the chef said he is looking forward to. 

“You might see my face more often in both stores and I will have time to be with the staff and nurture them more,” said Osaka, who also plans on updating some equipment in the OG Sushi-Rama and giving the space a little face lift. 

Unfortunately these closing aren’t the only big ones lately, February has been a month of lost loves. At least in this case, the original outposts of Sushi-Rama and Osaka Ramen are going strong so fans like my kid have the opportunity to get a fix of their favorites. Although space and accessibility in RiNo can be an issue. For those who want to avoid the hassle of hard-to-find parking, there’s always Sushi-Rama delivery or the joy of taking a car service downtown to stuff your face.

Visit Sushi-Rama at 2615 Larimer St., Denver


Linnea Covington

Linnea Covington is the managing editor of DiningOut. She comes to us with a long background in food, restaurant and drinks journalism. Over the last two decades she’s written for tons of publications including Denver Post, Washington Post, Forbes Travel Guide, 5280 Magazine, New York Magazine, New York Times, Time Out New York and more.

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