It's been nearly two years since the Samba Room, a Cuban restaurant chain based in Dallas, closed in Larimer Square, following a major water leak that dripped...and dripped into the Comedy Works space below. The chain's parent company, E-Brands Restaurants, eventually filed for bankruptcy last year, leaving the two-level Larimer Square restaurant vacant for months. "When the parent company filed for bankruptcy," says Joe Vostrejs, COO of the Larimer Associates, "it was apparent that they wouldn't reopen, which is when we really started to market the space."
Numerous potential tenants looked at the plot of prime real estate, and four weeks ago, Larimer Associates inked a deal with Consumer Capital Partners, the Denver-based private-equity firm that oversees Smashburger, which started its empire in Denver and now has nearly 150 locations nationwide. But while Smashburger continues to multiply like this season's miller moths, the deserted Samba Room space won't be another Smashburger.
"I can't tell you what the concept is, but I can tell you that we really like it and that it fills a niche that doesn't exist in downtown Denver right now," says Vostrejs, adding that it's a "restaurant that's an additive, not a duplicate of anything else on Larimer Square," which already trumpets a steakhouse (Capital Grille); a fish restaurant (Ocean Prime); an Asian-fusion spot (TAG); a raw bar (TAG RAW BAR); a Mediterranean/Spanish restaurant (Rioja); a French bistro (Bistro Vendome); a Mexican joint (Lime), in addition to Tamayo, which is also Mexican; a subterranean barbecue space (Russell's Smokehouse); a gastropub (Euclid Hall); an Italian restaurant (Osteria Marco); a pie parlor (Wednesday's Pie) -- plus Ted's Montana Grill, the Market, Green Russell, Corridor 44 and Cru - A Wine Bar.
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"We wanted a tenant that would be exclusive to Larimer Square, and we couldn't lease it to just anyone, given what we already have," notes Vostrejs, who also tells me that the new restaurant will "bring a lower price point" to what already exists. "That will be good for us and good for the people who eat on Larimer Square, and I really think that this is a concept that will activate Larimer Square."
Word on the street is that the concept is a 24-hour diner, which, if true, would definitely be a welcome addition to Larimer Square, which has never had a 24/7 diner. And there is no 24/7 diner downtown.
Vostrejs will neither confirm nor deny the scuttlebutt, but he will say that the Smashburger crew is "working really hard on the design phase and getting construction documents completed so that they can get them logged into the city for permits." And if everything goes smoothly, he predicts that the new restaurant from Smashburger will open by the end of August.