Bartenders Amy Kempster and Adam Dunbar depart Denver for San Diego

Bartenders Adam Dunbar and Amy Kempster leave Denver for California.
Bartenders Adam Dunbar and Amy Kempster leave Denver for California.
Courtesy of Amy Kempster

"We've been in Denver almost five years to the day," says Amy Kempster of her and her husband, Adam Dunbar. And in that time, the pair has made a major impression in the Denver dining scene: Kempster has worked behind the bars at Jonesy's EatBar, City O' City and Colt & Gray; Dunbar worked his way up from bussing tables at Sushi Den to running the front of the house and the beverage program at Freshcraft, one of this city's most serious beer halls.

But tomorrow morning, the duo will wave good bye to the Mile High City and head west, looking to make a splash in the restaurant scene in San Diego.

The seed for that decision, says Kempster, was initially planted by a Denver restaurateur. "They're opening a D Bar in San Diego," she explains. "Back in November, Adam and I had talked to Keegan [Gerhard] about going out there and being the general manager and bar manager. It's not going to happen, but that initial talk about San Diego kind of drilled it into our heads."

What sealed the deal, though, was Dunbar's recent trip to San Diego. "Adam went out there and visited an old friend, Jeff, who was an old Classic rep here in the area," she says. "He fell in love with the city. He's a beer guy -- he went to bars and breweries and fell in love with those. Both of us hate the snow, and I've always wanted to live by the ocean. And San Diego has a very hopping restaurant scene that's very similar to Denver."

Once they get settled, they'll both dive back into the restaurant industry, where they may eventually launch their own cocktail business, pimping out their skills in the private event community. "I don't want to call it cocktail catering," says Kempster. "But our friend is a level three sommelier, I'm working on my sommelier certification and Adam is working on his cicerone. We want to combine that knowledge and also make classic, delicious cocktails and create cocktails for events for different people. Imagine going to an event and ordering a bijou or Manhattan and actually getting a proper drink. That's what we want to offer."

In the meantime, says Kempster, Dunbar has a few leads at bars already, and she'll be looking for something behind a bar, too, as soon as she has a feel for the scene.

And, of course, they'll miss everything they're leaving behind; Kempster particularly laments leaving her post at Colt & Gray, where she had just settled in. "Leaving Denver is one of the hardest things that we've ever done, which is why we're doing it so quickly," she concludes. "We've never done anything so drastic and crazy in our whole lives."


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