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Casa Bonita, Benny's, Vine Street Pub: What Are You Waiting For?

Casa Bonita has been closed since March.
Casa Bonita has been closed since March.
Evan Semon
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Casa Bonita isn’t the only landmark restaurant that has yet to reopen in metro Denver. But while some owners have definitely given up the ghost, others, like Casa Bonita's Robert Wheaton, promise that they'll be back.

While all five restaurants owned by Mountain Sun — Mountain Sun, Southern Sun and Under the Sun, all in Boulder, along with the Vine Street Pub in Denver and Longs Peak Pub in Longmont — are closed, and will remain so for the foreseeable future, until the vaccine allows bars and restaurants to operate with fewer restrictions, their owners promise to return. “We’ll be back,” Mountain Sun co-owner Kevin Daly told Jonathan Shikes. “All five locations will be back, and we can’t wait to have a Stout Month when people can kiss and hug and make out and have a beer at the bar with their friends.”

The future is far less certain for the Hard Rock Cafe, which has leased almost 12,000 square feet of space in the Denver Pavilions since 1996. But the restaurant hasn't reopened since March, and the owners of the Florida-based chain are suing the Denver Pavilions, its landlord, to terminate their lease next month, according to BusinessDen.

Also among the missing: Benny’s Restaurant y Cantina. Owner Benny Armas, a legendary Denver cook who got his start at Whiskey Bill’s four decades ago, then moved on to the Oak Alley Inn (before it became Hanson’s) and the Lancer Lounge, finally opened his own place at 225 East Seventh Avenue in 1987. That worked out so well that when the Chef Henry space on the corner became available, Armas moved his restaurant to its current location, 301 East Seventh Avenue. Over the past three decades, the restaurant has expanded both its menu and space, adding a covered patio. It was in the middle of more renovations of its dining areas when the pandemic hit, and took advantage of the closure ordered March 17 to continue working on that plan, “taking the time to make improvements.”

Will Benny's be back?EXPAND
Will Benny's be back?
Westword

But so far, there’s no word on when Benny’s will return; according to the restaurant's Facebook page, "we are trying to keep our family safe." In the meantime, a big family of fans are waiting.

Another spot that has yet to reopen is Morin, the French restaurant that Juan Padró and Max MacKissock opened in the fall of 2018 in the former home of the legendary Wazee Lounge and Supper Club, which lasted for more than four decades at 1600 15th Street. While Padró’s restaurant group keeps expanding — it recently took over the two Aviano Coffee locations, and Ash’Kara will open any day in Boulder — the doors to Morin remain locked.

But inside, the kitchen has been busy, cooking up food for other Padró/MacKissock projects. Next on the agenda: a Super Bowl deal and a Valentine’s Day pop-up. Follow Morin on Instagram for updates.

For the rundown on all the places that closed for good in 2020, see our Restaurant Roll Call. What restaurant are you still waiting to see reopen? Post a comment or email editorial@westword.com.

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