By Jamie Swinnerton
By Mark Antonation
By Lori Midson
By Jonathan Shikes
By Amber Taufen
By Cafe Society
By Juliet Wittman
By Jonathan Shikes
Chavez y Sanchez started the site as "a desperate plea for help" a couple of months ago, when things at the cafe were looking very grim. Rent was due, employees were working without pay, equipment needed replacing, and there simply wasn't enough money coming in.
"I didn't put my whole life savings into this to fail," says Chavez y Sanchez. "I did my research. There was supposed to be a lot more development here along Platte Street with the Millennium Bridge and walkway. That's never happened." The project, originally scheduled for completion in 2002, now won't be finished until 2006, at the earliest. "A lot of the things that have been promised to this area haven't been delivered," she continues, citing disagreements between the city and property managers over acceptable signage for businesses and the fact that meter rates in her neighborhood are the same as they are in Lodo: 25 cents for ten minutes.
While Chavez y Sanchez has considered selling (and has actively solicited potential buyers by e-mail), she insists that anyone who wanted to take over La Taza would have to be the right kind of person. "They would have to be dedicated to having an independent business," she says, and not just cruising for a spot to open another Starbucksor Capri Coffee Break.
In the meantime, employees are keeping the doors open, bringing in local theater groups and poetry readings to keep the customers coming, and trying to stay positive. While Chavez y Sanchez says she hasn't gotten the kind of response she'd hoped for from the Web site, an anonymous donor did give $5,500 to help cover back rent. "And we have been receiving a lot of help from our friends and neighbors," she adds. "We have been really blessed so far, and we're not giving up."
Leftovers: This past year has been a wild ride for local icon Kevin Taylor. His restaurant empire took some hits -- Dandelion went belly-up in November, and Nicoisclosed just after the clock struck midnight on January 1 -- but it's also earned some points, with the flagship Restaurant Kevin Taylor (1106 14th Street in the Hotel Teatro) listed in Food & Wine magazine's list of the top fifty hotel restaurants. Taylor also attracted a nice piece of the dwindling restaurant dollar with a bottomless-wine-glass promotion that I'm surprised wasn't picked up by more of the boutique cafes in town. (At least he didn't add a buffet or sundae bar, the kind of bizarre move a less experienced restaurateur might make when times are bad.)
"Things have been tough," Taylor tells me. "In 2006, this is going to be a great town, but right now..."
Right now, there's more trouble right around the corner. After filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January in an attempt to buy time so that his company, Kevin Taylor Consultants LLC, could pay back debts in excess of $325,000, Taylor filed for Chapter 7 in Denver bankruptcy court on September 12. While the papers list all of Taylor's restaurant holdings, he insists that no more closures are imminent. "This was expected," Taylor explains. "We saw this coming. All our suppliers know about it. We planned for it."
They had to, because Taylor has always signed personally for everything related to his restaurants -- leases, loans, contracts, the whole megillah. "And when you personally sign on everything," he says, "people come after you."
The people coming after him this time are the owners of the 17th Street space that had housed Nicois (and, before that, Taylor's resurrected Zenith). With ten years left on that lease, they've been after him ever since the abrupt New Year's walkout -- and recently received "a massive judgment," says Taylor. "We lost this huge lawsuit." And that's what prompted the recent Chapter 7 filing.
A creditors' meeting -- where the terms of Taylor's bankruptcy settlement will be hashed out with a court trustee -- is scheduled for October 20, and while nothing will be certain until then, Taylor is confident that his remaining restaurants will emerge just fine. So Restaurant Kevin Taylor, jou jou(also in the Hotel Teatro) and Palettes in the Denver Art Museum(100 West 14th Avenue Parkway) are open for business?
"Absolutely," he responds. "Don't worry. I'm not going anywhere."
Going somewhere is chef Duy Pham (formerly of Tante Louise, formerly of Opal, formerly of Flow), now back again at Opal (100 East Ninth Avenue), doing special reservation-only dinners every Sunday. The price is eighty bucks a head, dinner starts promptly at 7 p.m., and you can expect anywhere from five to a thousand courses, depending on how frisky the chef is feeling that night.
Oliveto Cucina Italiana opened this summer in the Mission Trace Shopping Center, 3355 South Yarrow Street in Lakewood. It's a Southern Italian joint helmed by Italian-born chef Salvatore Calo, who spent decades practicing his trade on both coasts before packing up his family and coming to Denver. The menu is big and covers the entire Italian canon, from schiacciata to puttanesca, with Salvatore keeping an eye on things in the back while his wife, Barbara, handles the front.