Brown Dog Pizza lost the fight of its lives last year when the Telluride-based pizzeria got its chain yanked by a throng of vocal neighborhood pit bulls who raised holy hell when the pizza joint attempted to secure a liquor license for the space at 1001 South Gaylord Street. And after admittedly forking over $120,000 of his own money to finance the deal, Brown Dog co-owner Jeff Smokevitch and partner Giles Flanigan lost the battle; their liquor license was denied, in part because the hearing officer agreed with opponents who maintained that "Brown Dog didn't meet the needs and desires of the neighborhood."
Smokevitch and Flanigan walked away, but plenty of other restaurateurs were lurking, including Rick Post, a resident of Bonnie Brae and a partner/co-owner of Il Vicino, a New Mexico-based pizzeria with locations in Littleton and Colorado Springs -- and until just a few weeks ago, at Sixth and Broadway, which Post and his partners shuttered to relocate to South Gaylord Street, in the same space where Brown Dog floundered.
But whereas Brown Dog had applied for a liquor license that would have included pouring spirits, Il Vicino's liquor license application was strictly for beer and wine, which are the only libations the restaurant serves at its multiple locations.
Not that the absence of whiskey, vodka and gin made Il Vicino's success a foregone conclusion. "It wasn't easy," admits Post. "We had four or five people who were really adamantly against us getting the license, but we also had 450 signatures from residents, along with 100 local business signatures, who were in favor, and so far, the welcome from this neighborhood has been amazing," he says, pointing out that Il Vicino is a restaurant that pours beer and wine -- not a bar that serves food. "Neighbors are actually thanking us for opening, which is the first time I've ever seen that happen," he adds.
And it's a space, he says, "where we should have been from the very beginning." A location, too, that Post had been eying for nearly two years. "Il Vicino means 'the neighborhood' in Italian, so it was natural for us to want to be in a real neighborhood. Every time I walked by the space, it just felt right to me, and now that we've been open for almost a week, it really feels right," he says, noting that the primary reason for closing the Sixth and Broadway outpost was due to the expiration of his lease -- and horrific parking. "The landlord wasn't interested in renegotiating our lease, plus the rent was exorbitant and it's the worst parking lot in the city," he claims. (He's right.)
The Wash Park restaurant, which looks similar to its previous location -- and serves the same board of wood-fired pizzas, sandwiches, calzones and salads from an exhibition kitchen -- also trumpets a pocket park on its front patio, where botanicals and tomato vines dot the landscape. And soon the forest green kiosk, which sits front and center on the patio and was part of the original gas station that once occupied the address, will offer gelato from Little Man Ice Cream, along with java from Allegro Coffee.
"Even with all the rain we've had, the patio has been really popular," says Post, adding that in the six days the place has been open, "we've seen people on bicycles, parents with baby strollers -- six at one time -- and people braving the rain and walking down here with their umbrellas to get a pizza and a beer," all of which, he concludes, means that the neighborhood likes what it sees. "We welcome the opposing neighbors, too," he says, "and if they don't like it, oh, well."
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Il Vicino is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more info, call 303-861-0801.