Food News

Hacienda Colorado Opens on Changing 16th Street Mall

After being vacant for two years, the restaurant space at the Sheraton Denver Downtown is now serving "Mountain Mex."
After being vacant for two years, the restaurant space at the Sheraton Denver Downtown is now serving "Mountain Mex." Courtesy Hacienda Colorado
Even as news broke that the 33-year-old Paramount Cafe had closed, just a few blocks away on the 16th Street Mall, Hacienda Colorado was launching its sixth and largest Front Range restaurant at 1550 Court Street.

Hacienda Colorado, founded by Tim Schmidt in Lakewood in 1998, takes over the space previously occupied by Katie Mullen's, which closed two years ago after its parent company filed for bankruptcy. The 11,600-square-foot space, located at the base of the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel, has been completely transformed from its former Irish pub theme into a hacienda-style eatery — appropriate, given the restaurant's name — big enough for 377 guests. That's a lot of tamales.

Like the Paramount Cafe, Hacienda Colorado occupies a downtown architectural landmark, albeit one with a shorter history. The Paramount Cafe took up one corner of the Kittredge Building, built in 1891 as the highest skyscraper in Denver at the time (and one with a rooftop beer garden, something we modern Denverites thought we invented).

The tower rising above Hacienda Colorado was designed by internationally known firm I.M. Pei & Associates and completed in 1960 as part of what was then known as Courthouse Square. The other two structures built by the firm, the May D & F department store and a hyberbolic paraboloid structure (Denver natives probably remember the low, undulating roof of the building), were demolished more than twenty years ago to make way for a hotel expansion on the block.

While the Paramount Cafe had a history dating back to 1985, its owners, Premier Ventures Inc., purchased it at about the same time that Schmidt opened his first Hacienda Colorado at 5056 South Wadsworth Boulevard. Schmidt has since added locations serving "Mexican food with altitude" in Lone Tree, Westminster, Colorado Springs and on South Colorado Boulevard in Denver. The company is also planning another Westminster outpost for later this year.

Vacancies in high-rent zones tend to be snatched up by national corporations with deep pockets, but in this case, at least, a local restaurant company has taken over the massive space. Will Hacienda Colorado succeed where the ambitious Katie Mullen's failed so miserably?

Just down the street, Tavern Hospitality Group has had great success with its Mexican concept, Otra Vez, which opened just over a year ago at 610 16th Street; a few blocks away, La Loma relocated to 1801 Broadway across from the Brown Palace in 2016. The addition of Hacienda Colorado continues the downtown invasion of locally owned Mexican eateries.
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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation