Cafe Society

Charlie Palmer closing his namesake District Tavern and Wazee Wood-Fire Pizza on August 31

Charlie Palmer, the celebrated New York-based chef and restaurateur who owns and operates dozens of restaurants across the country, said his final goodbyes to Denver last night, just hours before announcing that Charlie Palmer's District Tavern and Wazee Wood-Fire Pizza, the two restaurants he opened in LoDo in late 2011, will shutter after dinner service on August 31.

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Palmer, who had just recently renamed -- and re-conceptualized -- the Tavern in May, which originally opened as District Meats, told me then that the re-do was, in part, due to the misconception that it was a steakhouse, which Palmer always insisted it wasn't, despite the propensity of beef on his menu. "The perception is that we're a steakhouse, and that's not what I set out to do. I set out to be a modern American tavern," Palmer stressed.

But the Tavern, steakhouse -- whatever you want to call it -- along with the pizza joint, weren't hitting the numbers, according to Erin Jevis, who handles the national public relations and marketing efforts for the Charlie Palmer Group. "It's disappointing, especially given the positive guest reviews we had," she laments, "but it was a matter of volume and not getting enough people through the doors." She adds, too, that there "are no plans for Charlie to open any other restaurants in Denver."

The staff, which includes exec chef Jeff Russell, a long-time employee of the Charlie Palmer Restaurant Group, have all been notified, notes Jevis, and while Russell has the option of staying within the empire, the other staffers -- servers, bartenders, cooks, hosts and management -- may have to search for new jobs, although Jevis insists that the powers that be are there to help. "We've identified some great servers and other staff members, and we'll provide any assistance we can with helping them find other jobs," she says.

She points out, too, that Palmer didn't expect things to come to a halt. "He loved the food and thought the service was on par, especially over the past few months, and while we've been monitoring the restaurants, it really is disappointing for everyone, but it just came down to numbers, and unfortunately, they simply weren't where we needed them to be," she says.

The two spaces, which, prior to Palmer's foray into the Denver dining scene, were also operated by two New York restaurateurs -- Zach and Jefferey Chodorow -- will become the property of the landlord as soon as the Tavern and Wazee Wood-Fire Pizza bid farewell. "As soon as we close, Charlie will no longer have any ownership in either concept," says Jevis.

Which leaves just one question: Who's going to snatch up the two spots?