Cafe Society

With Initiative 300 going down, Adam Schlegel can focus on getting the San Diego Snooze up

On November 2, Adam Schlegel woke up to a very sunny day -- and not just because he's in San Diego, where a new Snooze (the first one outside of Colorado) will open in about two weeks. The sun had barely gone down on November 1 when he got the news that Initiative 300, the paid-sick-leave proposal on the Denver ballot, had also gone down.

"I was expecting long, drawn-out updates through the evening," says Schlegel, Snooze co-owner (with his brother, Jon, who founded the chain) and the current president of EatDenver, a group of independent restaurants that became the poster children for the No on 300 campaign. "I'm very proud of how EatDenver and all those restaurants stood up and really drove home that message to the public."

And the Yes on 300 proponents -- who petitioned the proposal onto the ballot without consulting local businesspeople and subsidized their fight almost entirely with out-of-state funds -- definitely brought their campaign to Snooze's doorstep, sending Sick Rick, their snotty mascot, over to the second Snooze at 700 Colorado Boulevard one Saturday, basically asking diners "Do you want boogers in your burritos?" Schlegel remembers. "I was irate."

By then, he was also deep into the No on 300 campaign. Although the initiative would have affected just about every business in Denver, restaurateurs were particularly concerned about what it would do to their operations -- especially since the proposal was so cumbersome that it looked like workers might have up to 72 hours to even let their employers know they were out sick. "It was great to see the whole community so excited," Schlegel says. "We started fighting a losing battle, and people really got together."

And he isn't about to let the issue die now. Between its six restaurants, Snooze has 250 employees, and Schlegel is thinking about formalizing his own sick-leave policies and keeping the discussion going. "How do we not just push this under the table?" he asks. "How do we take the lead and draft policy?"

While he thinks about that, he'll be busy getting the newest Snooze ready for its scheduled November 18 opening, retooling a concept that's been so successful in Colorado -- the Boulder store just opened in September -- for California. "We're about 75 percent further than when we opened up our Ballpark store," he says, referring to the original Snooze that opened on Larimer Street in 2006.

"We're sticking with a lot of what we've done," he says. "We still believe in seasonality." And local sourcing, so he's been exploring the options. "We're finding little juice companies that are great, and the beer exploration has been fun," he notes. "San Diego has a tremendous beer scene." We're guessing he hoisted a few when he learned of 300's defeat.

And after this, what's next for Schlegel and Snooze? "I can honestly tell you that nothing is on the books, but we're looking for the right opportunity, the right managers, the right staff to bring it forward," he says, adding that first, the Schlegel brothers will see how the Snooze in San Diego does. "If it works, it gives us a lot of opportunities...."

A version of this story first appeared in yesterday's Cafe Bites, our weekly e-mail newsletter on the restaurant scene; you can subscribe here.