Openings and Closings

Hot-Chick-A-Latte, Colfax's Bikini Barista Shop, Closing August 28

Owner Christina Stephens is all about empowerment.
Courtesy of Christina Stephens
Owner Christina Stephens is all about empowerment.
"We're just hitting a point to where we can barely keep our heads above water," says Christina Stephens, the owner of Hot-Chick-A-Latte at 4736 East Colfax Avenue, which will close August 28. "I don't want to ever push it to a point where I put my employees in a position where they have to suffer because of my bad judgment."

Putting employees first has been a focus for Stephens since she purchased the bikini barista business from original owner Troy Jensen, who'd closed it in 2018 after opening it back in 2010. Stephens was already very familiar with the operation: She'd started working there following a short stint at Starbucks, just a few months after turning eighteen. "I've always enjoyed coffee, but I had a hard time with the corporate world," she notes.

Hot-Chick-A-Latte was anything but corporate. The experience was "really fun and inviting," she recalls, but she also encountered "a lot of judgment [in] the owner's idea of beauty and what it meant to be a Hot Chick." When Stephens reopened the place in 2019 — after making repairs on the building to get things up to code — that judgment was "something I really wanted to stop," she says. "I believe that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and colors. We started hiring people of all sizes and colors, as well as transgender and non-binary employees."
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Hot-Chick-A-Latte will close on August 28.
Courtesy of Christina Stephens
The revamped Hot Chick was embraced by Denver's LGBTQ community, Stephens says, and got a boost of business during the Black Lives Matter movement as well, as a Black female-owned business. But ultimately, the effects of the pandemic hit the bottom line. "Being a new business owner was hard in itself, but add the pandemic to the equation...," Stephens reflects. The business did not qualify for much of the help available to small businesses because it had opened halfway through 2019, and most programs compared 2019 sales to those in 2020. "Obviously, we made more in 2020 because we were open the whole year," she explains. "It's been very challenging."

Stephens broke the news that she'd decided to close to her staff over a recent dinner. "We group-hugged. They are all on the same page and understand that maybe Hot Chicks is ready for another path," she says, adding that staffers were grateful to have a month's notice to find new jobs and say goodbye to longtime customers. "All of our regulars have stayed true," Stephens notes.

A new coffee shop — one with traditional baristas — is set to take over the space, but Stephens was able to retain ownership of the brand in the deal, something that was important to her. "It's been a part of my life for almost ten years," she says. "We're hoping to bring it back; we're very optimistic."

In the meantime, Stephens plans to lean into another coffee venture. "Three months ago, I started roasting coffee," she notes. "I created the brand Ok But First Coffee. We started roasting for Hot Chick, so now I'm trying to branch out and grow that."