Cafe Society

Ichiban Grill and Sushi will see if it can bait downtown fishheads in a notoriously unfriendly address

Mitch Harbor, who already owns Johnny Rockets on the 16th Street Mall, Good Times (also on the 16th Street Mall), Taco John's at 5810 Logan Street and Steak Escape franchises at DIA and Park Meadows, isn't remotely worried about building an upscale Japanese and sushi restaurant at a Ballpark neighborhood address that's seen a succession of restaurants open, and subsequently die, over the past four years.

The space at 2200 Market Street, which resides on the ground floor of the Premier Lofts building -- and was most recently Saucy -- will become Ichiban Grill and Sushi early next year, and while some would say the address is a recipe for doom and gloom, Harbor, who owns the restaurant with his brother-in-law, Louis Kup, begs to differ. "My brother-in-law trained in Japan and has two successful Japanese restaurants in Houston, and to be honest, there aren't a lot of Japanese/sushi restaurants in downtown Denver, so there's not a lot of competition," says Harbor, adding that he believes residents of the lofts are "young professionals who understand sushi."

Harbor is completely gutting the interior, a deliberate move, he confides, that will remove all the remnants from former inhabitants of the building, including Brix Downtown and Otto's Grill, both of which survived about as long as a fish in boiling water. He's building a sushi bar, along with a bar-bar and garage doors that will open to a sidewalk patio. "You won't see anything from any of the other restaurants that used to be here. We're changing everything, and while we know there have been problems with this space in the past, we wouldn't be doing it if we didn't think we'd be successful," insists Harbor.

We'll find out next year, in January or February, if the fourth (fifth?) time is a charm. Considering that Harbor signed a ten-year lease on the space, we wish him luck.