Rocky Mountain Diner Forced to Close After 20 Years
(photo from Rocky Mountain Diner website)
If you've spent any time in downtown Denver, you've probably eaten at the Rocky Mountain Diner. At 18th and Stout Streets, it's one block from the old federal courthouse and the federal court of appeals, three blocks from the new federal courthouse. The Diner is housed in the historic Ghost Building, designed by architect William Lang in the 1800's for a man name A.M. Ghost.
The seats start filling up at 11:30 am, by noon, there's a wait. The food is terrific and plentiful (lunch menu here, dinner menu here, dessert menu here) and the atmosphere inviting and familial. To call it a Denver institution is not an overstatement. [More...]
Two of its owners, Tom and Barb Walls, are long-time friends of mine. So when I read yesterday it was closing immediately, I was doubly sad, first for them and the 40 member staff, many who have been working there for more than a decade, and then for the thousands of patrons who love to eat there.
Apparently, the lease is up and the landlord refused to extend new terms the restaurant owners could agree to. The Walls and their co-owner, Brad Anderson, say they are "devastated."
I just assumed, until today, that the big, bad landlord was some corporate behemoth that couldn't care less if the place sat empty while it tried to release the place at a jacked-up rate.
Then today at Westword I read that the landlord is Frances Koncilja. Frances is a long-time civil lawyer, tough as nails, very prominent in bar associations and that sort of stuff. Her law offices were above the Diner, but I never realized she owned the whole building.
Meanwhile, Koncilja, who has been the landlord for the past five years, has plans to open a restaurant in the empty space, according to Anderson, who notes, apologetically, that forty employees no longer have jobs. "The whole thing just sucks," he laments.
Yes, it does. While Tom, Barb, and Brad also own the Trinity Grille (near the Brown Palace), Choppers in Cherry Creek (a sports bar) and the Castle Cafe (great for fried chicken in Castle Rock), losing the Diner is a huge deal, for them and for the downtown community.
According to Westword, Frances has plans to open her own restaurant in the space and served an eviction notice on the diner after they couldn't reach agreement on lease terms.
...last Friday, the owners received an eviction notice from Frances Koncilja, the building's landlord. "We tried and tried and tried to negotiate a new lease, and we were legitimately offering above-market rent in a downmarket, but we got a letter on Friday from the landlord telling us that we had exactly ten days to vacate," Anderson tells me over schooners in the rusticated dining room. "It doesn't make sense. We're still in shock that it ended like this -- so abruptly, so senselessly."
But the Denver Business Journal writes:
In a statement, attorney Koncilja -- who was a statewide co-chair of Gov. John Hickenlooper's transition team -- said she was "surprised" by Walls' decision to close and said she was seeking another business for the site.
How surprised could she be after serving an eviction notice? There must be more to the story (there always is) but the bottom line is downtown Denver has lost a much-loved institution and walking or driving by 18th and Stout just won't be the same. It will feel like there's a big hole there.
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