There Goes the Neighborhood

Okay, so the rumors have been flying about some big shakeups happening at Mel's in Cherry Creek, and I'm here to tell you that the bad news is true. I just got off the phone with owner Mel Master a few minutes ago, and he told me that Mel's will, in fact, be closing — probably sometime this summer.

How did this happen? Let me explain. See, it seems that in October of last year, Mel and his wife, Jane, were looking to sign a new lease on their space at 235 Fillmore Street. They still had two years left on their old lease, but for a long time, they'd been thinking about spending some money and making some improvements to the twelve-year-old Cherry Creek institution, and they weren't about to move ahead with that without getting a nice long lease agreement first.

And that was all well and good. Negotiations were conducted in a civil fashion. Everyone got (more or less) what they wanted. But then, "Before we were able to sign that lease," according to Mel, "the landlord went and sold the building to Phil Anschutz's son."

For those of you keeping score at home, that would be Christian Anschutz who owns the Western Development Group and picked up not only the 235 Fillmore property (for $5.5 million) but also 280-290 Columbine Street for another $4.1 million. He and Western already own the 200 Fillmore building in Cherry Creek as well.

The sale of the building "basically left us up shit's creek with no paddle," said Mel, even after Western Development decided they weren't going to move ahead with a planned redevelopment of the 235 Fillmore Street building. He and Jane still had the option of renegotiating a new lease with Anschutz and his people but, after a five-day mini vacation, they decided against it.

"We looked into our restaurateurs' souls," Mel explained, laughing. "We decided that any restaurant runs the risk of becoming stale and staid after too many years."

And with that, they decided to pull the plug. Mel's will be sold and the Masters' focus turned to both the new Montecito restaurant they just opened (with help from son Charlie Master, who's backed off somewhat from the day-to-day ops at his two Brix anti-bistros) at 1120 East 6th Avenue and the upcoming Montecito in the works down in Greenwood Village. They picked up that lease "because it was a killer deal," according to Mel, while all the business with Anschutz, Western and their landlord was still very much up in the air.

Say one thing for the Masters: they never stop looking forward. -- Jason Sheehan

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts