Denver is changing fast, as people are discovering as they start going out and about in the city again.
"I drive down Colfax all the time," writes one reader. "Noticed as they were taking apart the old PT sign..there was an older one under it. All I could see was 'Famous Chef.' Could not find anything on this old restaurant. Can you help?"
Sure can, thanks to Michael Roberts, who shared the story just a few months ago as the city moved forward with plans to turn the property at 8315 East Colfax Avenue, which once hosted PT's All Nude II, into a $15 million, 82-unit affordable-housing complex.
The structure was built in 1950 to serve as the home of the Famous Chef restaurant, operated by the Willner brothers: Harry, Jack and Milton. A 2016 post from the East Colfax Neighborhood Association shows assorted restaurant memorabilia, including an ashtray, the outside of a dinner menu and a matchbook cover.
A site called Route40.net, which celebrates the pre-interstate era when Colfax was an important part of a cross-country jaunt, found a 1952 breakfast menu from the restaurant. Back then, the Famous Chef waffle went for 45 cents, a large tomato juice cost a quarter, and a cup of coffee went for a dime.
Famous Chef operated until 1967. In 1968, according to the neighborhood association history, the building was purchased by Gerald "Jerry" Kernis, "the co-founder of the Diamond Cabaret strip club — and he would partner with Bobby Rifkin and Pierre Wolfe in many of Denver's great restaurants, such as The Boiler Room, The Patio, The Quorum, The Normandy, and The Fresh Fish Company."
Kernis transformed the Famous Chef space into "Friday & Saturday's, two different entities — a nite club with a DJ at Friday's and...a live music venue at Saturday's. Rumor has it musician Tommy Bolin played at Saturday's one night." Bolin was the guitar prodigy who performed with Colorado-based Zephyr, the James Gang and Deep Purple and as a solo artist before his tragic death in December 1976. He was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in 2019. In 1972, the venue became known simply as Friday & Saturday's; by the 1980s, it was just Saturday's. That spot was turned into a strip club in the 1990s and was christened PT's All Nude II in 2015 — the same year it was a setting for a murder, when Stephen "Magic" Futrell shot Jeremy Garcia because he didn't like the way Garcia shook his shoulders, according to an arrest affidavit.
After that, the property was definitely on Denver's hit list. The club closed in 2017, and the city bought the building for $1.3 million, with plans to create affordable housing there.
And to finally take down the last vestiges of the Famous Chef. But the sign lives on!
Jonny Barber, founder of the Colfax Museum, rescued the Famous Chef sign. "It took three days of hard work to pull it out," he says, "but it is a great addition to the museum. I'd sincerely like to thank Mercy Housing for making it possible for us to save the sign."
Update: This story has been updated to include Jonny Barber's quote.