While shops and restaurants all over Cherry Creek took advantage of Black Friday and the stream of shoppers coming to the neighborhood, one typically packed eatery was unusually quiet. The Cherry Cricket stood closed and dark, with signs on the doors explaining that a kitchen fire was the reason for the closure. That fire took place on the evening of Wednesday, November 23, during a busy dinner service; guests and employees were forced to evacuate, and the Denver Fire Department was called to the scene.
The initial post on the department's Twitter page noted that a "small fire reported in hood system of restaurant. No injuries. No extension into bldg or other structures. No fire in roof." But even for a small fire, the sprinkler systems were triggered, and a combination of water damage, smoke and the exposure of asbestos (as indicated by a warning sign posted on the patio entrance) could mean months of repairs and costly hazardous-materials remediation. The owner, Breckenridge-Wynkoop Holdings, hopes to have a target reopening date later this week.
Denver Fire crews on scene at TheCherry Cricket. No injuries. pic.twitter.com/kAbmHNSBd2— Denver Fire Dept. (@Denver_Fire) November 24, 2016
But a second Cherry Cricket, which was already in the works before the fire hit, could soon provide backup.
The Wynkoop restaurant group bought the Cherry Cricket in 2000, adding it to a portfolio that had started with the Wynkoop Brewing Company in 1988. Over the years, the owners — led by now-Governor John Hickenlooper, added more brewpubs, then focused on purchasing such iconic neighborhood spots as the now-defunct Pearl Street Grill and the Cherry Cricket.
Six years ago, when Hickenlooper was no longer part of the ownership group (when he was elected mayor, his shares went into a blind trust), Wynkoop merged with the Breckenridge Brewery group, creating Breckenridge-Wynkoop Holdings (BW). Breckenridge brought a couple of locations into the deal; one of them was the beer bar at 2200 Blake Street that has had several names in recent years. It started as the Breckenridge Brewpub, then became Breckenridge Colorado Craft, followed by Breckenridge on Blake and Breck on Blake. After all that, BW finally decided to turn the space into a second Cherry Cricket and will soon begin the transformation.
The move makes sense: The Cricket is definitely the most successful restaurant in the group, and the Breckenridge name has been disappearing from the portfolio. Nearly a year ago, BW sold the new Breckenridge Brewery campus (along with the Farm House Restaurant) in Littleton to Anheuser-Busch Inbev; the original Breckenridge brewpub in the town of the same name was also part of the deal.
The Breckenridge name has been phased out at other BW establishments outside Denver, too; the company's Breckenridge Brewpub in Grand Junction has been renamed the Ale House Grand Junction, echoing the Ale House at Amato's, a Breckenridge project in the works in Denver before the merger.
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BW Holdings at one time owned the building that the Cherry Cricket has called home since it was built in 1953, but the company sold it and re-leased the space from the new owners in early 2015. A sign on the door promises that the Cherry Creek restaurant will rebuild — but in the meantime, you should soon be able to get your Cricket burger fix in the Ballpark neighborhood.