Openings and Closings

After months of repair limbo, Samba Room finally pulls the plug

It's been many, many months since floor leaks forced the closure of Samba Room in Larimer Square, but as late as December of 2010, the company, along with Larimer Associates, the group that owns the space, were optimistic that the place would eventually reopen.

It wasn't to be. E Brands, the national group that owns the restaurant, was betting on repurchasing its assets out of bankruptcy -- until it was outbid last week by Tavistock, another national company that owns several restaurant concepts. And the new owner, Joe Vostrejs, COO of the Larimer Associates, is letting go of the lease.

"This all happened last week," says Vostrejs. "Tavistock decided it didn't want to keep the lease on this Samba Room. The place was under reconstruction and the plug got pulled."

E Brands had made the required repairs to the plumbing system and was in the process of laying down a waterproof floor. And now Carlson, the restaurant group behind TGI Fridays that was actually guaranteeing the lease, will step up to make the last necessary fixes -- which, Vostrejs notes, are minimal, since whoever picks up the space next will likely refinish it.

And now that the space is up for gabs, the Larimer Associates are being flooded with offers.

"A bunch of restaurant companies are interested in the space," says Vostrejs. "They'd been circling for months." Most of those, he tells me, are from out-of-state bidders looking to break into the downtown Denver market. But the group also plans to open the address up to nationwide and local bidders alike, so any interested party will have the opportunity to make an offer.

Whatever does take over the address will "stick with the existing Larimer Square plan," insists Vostrejs, who promises that "It'll be a cool chef-driven concept that adds something to the street."

Which means no mega-chains and nothing that directly competes with anything else on the block. He says it'll take months to sort out exactly what that is, though.

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk