You can trust in quality, advises the sign that was suddenly revealed as decades of add-ons were stripped off the turn-of-the-last century building at 2801 Welton Street. But can we trust in the developer renovating what was most recently home to BJ's Port to recognize the inherent coolness of this billboard? In addition to Coca-Cola, it touted the long-gone Yuye Cafe, run by Mae Chung back in the days when this stretch of Welton was known as the "Harlem of the West."
The hopping area featured not just what would come to be called soul food, but some of the original fusion that reflected how many different cultures were converging in Five Points. In a 1940 newspaper ad, Yuye advertised Chinese barbecue with a holiday special of "home-cooked pig's feet" for five cents, according to the Lost Restaurants of Denver.
Decades later, the space was BJ's Port, "a glorious little place at 28th and Welton streets that recalls the raucous, energetic organ-trio clubs of Jimmy Smith's prime — right down to the barbecued ribs and collard greens on the menu," Bill Gallo wrote for Westword back in 2002. Drew Bixby returned to this classic dive in 2007 for a Drink of the Week piece, but the bar closed soon after, with the death of the building's owner, Charles Cousins. After that, Wallace Simpson Post 29 hoped to turn the space into an American Legion post, complete with bar, but that dream went dry in 2010, when the post's application was denied by the Denver Department of Excise and License, because the building at 2801 Welton Street was too close to a school — a zoning rule that didn't exist when the original bar opened decades ago.
But thanks to a change in that zoning rule a few years ago, bars can now open within 500 feet of a school — if the neighborhood and school itself are willing — which has allowed several new places to recently open in Five Points, including Rosenberg's Bagels & Deli, Spangalang Brewery and Dunbar Kitchen & Taphouse, our Best New Bar in the Best of Denver 2015.
But the area has also lost a lot of its classic spots over the last few years and, just last week, Tom's Home Cookin' closed its doors. The owners reported sold the space to a chef, so it will at least remain a restaurant...but with property prices skyrocketing, presumably one with a liquor license.
And what will happen at 2801 Welton Street? Now that the blue paint and beige stucco has been stripped away, the developer has posted a "space available" sign just past the Coca-Cola mural. No matter what new thing is added to the mix in this rapidly changing neighborhood, let's hope they hold onto this rediscovered vestige of the past.
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