Denver Pub Vine Street Celebrates a Successful Opening Weekend | Westword
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Vine Street Celebrates a Successful Opening Weekend

Much has stayed the same, but a few things — including, yes, the wings — have changed.
Patrons dined inside Vine Street for the first time since 2020 last week.
Patrons dined inside Vine Street for the first time since 2020 last week. Molly Martin
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"It went really well — it was a huge relief," says Kevin Daly, proprietor of the Mountain Sun Pubs group that includes Vine Street Pub & Brewery, a beloved Uptown spot that finally reopened on June 8 after a four-year hiatus. "It really has made the stresses of the last four years feel worth it. There were many times when I thought I should retire," he admits.

When restaurants were forced to close indoor dining in March 2020 because of the pandemic, Daly, who owns the building at 1700 Vine Street, took the opportunity to make some major upgrades, particularly in the kitchen. But when the dining restrictions were lifted, Vine Street remained closed.

"In hindsight, we should have opened Denver before Mountain Sun," he says. "We could have, we should have, but it is what it is." Running just one restaurant is hard, particularly these days, but Daly has five to oversee — and Vine Street is the only one in the Denver area.

Keeping it closed made it easier to focus on Mountain Sun, Southern Sun and Under the Sun, all located in Boulder, as well as Longs Peak Pub & Taphouse in Longmont; the group could still use Vine Street for brewing beer in the meantime.

Another factor was the challenge of filling upper-management slots. "We're still short managers," Daly notes, adding that he's currently looking for kitchen managers and cooks for Vine Street.
click to enlarge front of a building with rainbow flags hanging from a sign
Vine Street's hours are limited to start but there are plans to expand soon.
Molly Martin
Staffing the front of the house in Denver, though, has been "a delight," he says. A handful of former employees opted to return, and "we've been really surprised by the high caliber of the employees. We have a great team. ... There are a lot of people who tried a desk job during the pandemic and decided, 'It's not for me.' There were a lot of boomerangs who realized that the real world is not that fun. It's really refreshing getting people who want to work in this industry."

The first guests were able to visit Vine Street on June 6 and 7, when it offered free food to those who nabbed a ticket via Eventbrite. "The soft opening sold out in four minutes, 300 tickets a night," Daly notes.

When we stopped by, employees and guests were all smiles. Many diners in throwback Vine Street T-shirts snapped selfies. Former regulars greeted each other over pints of beer and staples like burgers and hand-cut fries.

"We've been really overwhelmed with the response from Denver," Daly says. "It was so cool to see so many generations — there were tables with grandparents, parents and grandkids. We had people drive an hour from Parker and Highlands Ranch. All the kids coming for their birthdays, and people who'd had their first dates at Vine Street. The community was so kind."

While the place looks pretty much the same, fans will notice some changes — among them, the formerly cash-only joint now takes credit cards.
click to enlarge buffalo wings
Vine Street's famed wings are back, but they are a little different.
Jackie Bayne
Chef Lincoln Humphrey, who recently graduated from the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Boulder and worked at Southern Sun, has moved to Denver and is leading the kitchen. It opened with a condensed menu but will be "adding things back weekly," Daly says, adding that Vine Street will also be serving pizza for the first time. "And if you're a foodie, keep an eye on the specials. We're gonna be experimenting with a lot of stuff."

One change has already gotten some positive feedback. Vine Street's burgers and sandwiches used to come with tortilla chips as the standard side; those have been replaced with a pile of housemade kettle chips — a vast improvement, though it's still hard to skip the option to upgrade to fries.

Another switch did have some regulars lamenting. Vine Street's wings have always been popular, but they're no longer being breaded. "Breading costs a lot of money and labor, and it's harder to execute," Daly explains. "We gotta do what works...and Denver needs to remember that it voted in $18.29 minimum wage" — a move that has had a big impact on the entire dining scene.

"Some restaurants have been trying service fees, many have had to raise prices," and many have closed, Daly notes. "People have to be forgiving and they have to be supportive. This is a hard business to make money on a good day."

For now, Vine Street is operating with limited hours, but those will expand soon, and live music will return as well. While there are still a lot of moving pieces to the reopening, "it feels great — we're psyched to be back," Daly says. "Thank you so much, Denver, for your patience and kindness. It's heartwarming to have so many people tell me how good they feel about the pub, how much it means to them."

Vine Street is located at 1700 Vine Street and is currently open from 3 to 9 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. For more information, visit mountainsunpub.com.
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