Word of Mouth

Hard Rock Cafe -- no, not that Hard Rock -- looking for a new proprietor

Get a piece of the rock -- the original Hard Rock Cafe, that is. The town of Empire, which owns the century-old building in which the restaurant is located (and whose offices are right upstairs) is looking for a new party to run the place. The Hard Rock's last proprietor , who got the contract in 2011, is moving on, and the town is looking for an interested party to take over the lease as of September 1.

That lease comes with a lot of history: The restaurant got its start in the '30s, serving food to hard-rock miners and other mountain folk at least forty years before the Hard Rock chain got its start in 1971. And there's absolutely no connection between this restaurant and the Hard Rock Cafe down on the 16th Street Mall -- except a lawsuit that's also now a part of history.

As part of that suit's resolution, the town of Empire is not allowed to advertise the eatery outside of Colorado. But that's not a major problem, since most of the clientele consists of locals and travelers headed up Highway 40 from I-70 -- between 2.7 and 3 million cars a year, according to mayor Wendy Koch.

"We are the original Hard Rock Cafe," she points out. And the place comes not just with that admirable customer base, but an actual spot on the National Historic Register, as well as a lovely sun deck overlooking the valley....and all those cars that could be carrying patrons your way.

Interested in getting a piece of the rock? Contact Empire town clerk Jennifer Cade at 303-569-2978 between 8:30 a.m. and noon Monday through Friday.


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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun