Leave room for cream and sugar at Hot-Chick-A-Latte

Denver likes its coffee hot, and the joe is served smokin' at Hot Chick-A-Latte, a new drive-thru where the baristas dress in bikinis, cowgirl clothes and other sexy outfits, work primarily for tips and serve a specialty called Morning Wood. The business, inside the distinctive A-frame building at 4736 East Colfax Avenue, opened a month ago to honks and hollers from traffic driving by the store, where the scantily-clad girls stir things up by dancing on tables and waving signs.

"We've had some people call the police," says Troy Jensen, a mortgage broker who co-owns the store with Vincent Holman and knows the owner of the original shop in Washington state. "One call was because traffic was slowed down; another woman told police there were girls wandering naked in the street."

The store is the Hot Chick-A-Latte chain's first franchise outside of Washington, where bikini baristas have popped up all over. It's also Denver's first bikini coffee shop, and Jensen believes the city is ready for A-Cups, C-Cups and Double Ds rather than talls, grandes and ventis. "There's not a lot of drive-thrus here," he says. "That's really what we wanted to bring to the table — to get rid of the stuffiness of the Starbucks atmosphere, where people talk quietly and have meetings, and have a good time."

But Jensen also stresses that he wants his coffee to be good as well as hot; the beans are provided by Denver's Coda Coffee, which roasts for many other shops around town, and all of Jensen's employees have gone to Coda's barista classes. "We have a fun shtick, but that won't go anywhere unless we have good coffee," he says.

Oh, and the bright-but-only-half-finished pink paint job on the A-frame? Jensen says it will be done soon: "We've got all the paint. We're just waiting for the right time."

Aurora apparently wasn't ready for its first bikini coffee shop. City councilwoman Molly Markert is asking people to boycott Perky Cups, which opened last fall at 12101 East Iliff Avenue, as well as all of the shops around it. The point is to pressure the shopping center's management company, Shames-Makovsky Realty, to "manage your property responsibly" by not allowing the bikini-clad baristas to walk around outside the store.

"When one of his employees is raped and murdered, we will all mourn the loss," Markert writes in her newsletter about store owner Jason Bernal. "In the meantime, we pledged not to shop...until the outside parades cease permanently."

Shames-Makovsky broker Jamie Mitchell wouldn't comment on the dispute. An attorney for the real-estate company didn't return calls seeking comment. Perhaps he hadn't yet had his cup of Morning Wood.

Scene and herd: Folks will soon be able to grab a cup of joe at a very different type of location: the bright-yellow Denver Puppet Theater, at 3156 West 38th Avenue. "We wanted to use the space more," says theater owner Annie Zook. "We don't do puppet shows much" during the day. That's why she wants to open Zook's by the end of July — that is, if she manages to pull all the right strings in the city inspection process.

Zook's will offer coffee, tea, ice cream, paninis and other cafe goodies from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday, but don't expect Pinocchio or Kermit the Frog to be pulling that espresso. Zook says the puppets will, for the most part, stay in the theater next door. Nor do the marionettes have much to do with other miscellaneous enterprises now in the Denver Puppet Theater building: a recording studio and a hair salon operated by Zook's son and his girlfriend, respectively.

Give them a hand for making the most of the space.