Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Landry's owner finally hooks McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant

Denizens of lower downtown thought their ship had come in that day in 1986 when McCormick's Fish House & Bar opened in the Oxford Hotel, bringing fresh seafood and an incredible happy hour -- known to all as "cheap time" -- to an area that was pretty high and dry when it came to good restaurants.

"McCormick's has just been a cornerstone of downtown," says Dana Crawford, the developer who'd resurrected the Oxford and welcomed the restaurant even before the LoDo Historic District was created in 1988.

But now it looks like Tilman Fertitta, CEO of Landry's Inc. and an investor in McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurants Inc., has finally netted the entire chain in a $132 million deal -- less than he was willing to pay last spring, when he started a hostile takeover.

Fertitta's fishing expedition could help explain why the renovation of McCormick's Fish House -- both the restaurant and the bar -- that was planned for this summer never got started.

There are over eighty McCormick & Schmick's restaurants, including the two in Denver: the Fish House in the Oxford, the other a McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant, in the Tech Center. And if the deal goes through, Fertitta will own them both by the end of December. "McCormick & Schmick's fell victim to the need to grow and located some restaurants in secondary markets which were adversely impacted to a greater degree by the economic downturn," Fertitta said in a statement announcing the impending deal.

This isn't the only catch he's netted since buying out the entire Landry's chain last year. Fertitta has also landed Oceanaire Seafood, Claim Jumper and Bubba Gump Shrimp.

"Everybody's grateful for what McCormick's brought," Crawford says, recalling "the cheap eats and good camaraderie" of late afternoon in the bar, when the neighborhood would gather there. "Let's hope that continues."

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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