Bite Me

The two Ted's Montana Grill eateries that recently opened (at 1401 Larimer Street and 7301 South Santa Fe Drive in Littleton) serve beer and wine only. Why, you may ask? I was wondering the same thing, so I called the Larimer Square location with what I thought was a very simple question: Since Ted's (or, more accurately, TMGR Restaurants LLC) holds a "hotel and restaurant" license that allows them to pour the hard stuff, why don't they?

But apparently there's no such thing as a simple question in the Ted Turner empire. After being put on hold not once, not twice, but thrice, I did finally get to a manager, who became so immediately defensive once the word "reporter" came out of my mouth that you'd think I was asking her about Ted's secret stash of porn and Nazi gold. But no, I was just curious about the bar and why they were serving what they were serving (a no-big-secret scoop that had been tossed in my lap by my editor, who'd had lunch at the Larimer Square Ted's -- she saw the great man there himself -- and noticed several disappointed would-be drinkers getting the bad news at the bar).

Despite the fact that the beer-and-wine-only policy quickly becomes evident to anyone dining at Ted's, the only information I could get out of this poor manager without a "But you can't print that!" attached was that the Ted's concept "all the way around, at all of our restaurants, is that we only serve beer and wine." The manager (who never provided her name, either) insisted that Ted's is "a simple place," but that "because of who we are, we refer everyone to our PR company. And I've probably said too much already..."

Because of who you are? I'm sorry, I thought Ted's was a restaurant. All I wanted to know was why this bison-happy chain of (currently) six restaurants (with an eye to opening another four by the end of the year, and an additional 17 million by 2005) had made the decision not to serve hard liquor, and all of a sudden I'm playing a bit part in a bad Cold War spy drama.

Having had quite enough of the creepy omerta vibe, I called the PR company in question -- Atlanta-based Fleishman-Hillard International Communications -- and got to talk to Mary Puissegur, who handles the Ted's account. "In terms of the concept, they" -- meaning Turner and partner George McKerrow of Longhorn Steakhouse fame -- "wanted it to be a meal-friendly, family-friendly place," she told me. The thinking went that serving the firewater, in addition to putting stress on what's already a small bar area, would give the place more of a tavern atmosphere -- something the partners wanted to avoid.

Oh, okay. So then why was the Colorado Springs location planning on pouring the hard stuff? "They'll be a test market," Puissegur said. "Mostly because of a quirk in the local liquor ordinance that says, essentially, if a joint holds a full license, it must have a full bar."

Okay. So why, I asked, was the Larimer Square Ted's displaying two antique whiskey bottles -- one with a couple of swallows of the very hard stuff left -- that workers had found buried in the walls while remodeling the century-old space? The only answer Puissegur had for that was "when they were doing the restructuring, they found a lot of interesting things." Like what? Cash? Jimmy Hoffa's body? Another print of Gone With the Wind for Ted to mess with? Again, Puissegur wasn't talking. Instead, she took my name and number and told me that someone from another department in the company would get in touch with me soon. Mr. Turner himself was unavailable for comment because he's currently in negotiations to buy Argentina, where he can go to hide out when all those AOL-Time-Warner stockholders (whose portfolios are light about $99 billion as of this writing) come looking for revenge, and his bison can graze on nothing but freshly minted hundred-dollar bills. But frankly, after all this, I kinda expect him to be showing up at my door at 3 a.m. with a blackjack and handcuffs. As yet, I've had no contact, but if you see that next week's Bite Me is suddenly being written by Fred Furner, you'll know what happened...

Sam I am: Fortunately, there are plenty of restaurant guys in this town who are more than happy to talk about anything that's on their minds. One of them is Patrick Armatas, grandson of Sam Armatas -- the founder of a string of Sam's eateries -- and current owner (along with brothers Sam and Alex) of Sam's No. 3 at 2580 South Havana Street in Aurora. Ever wonder why the place is called "No. 3"? Well lemme tell ya a story...

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Jason Sheehan
Contact: Jason Sheehan