Last March, facing pandemic-based business restrictions, The Market, at 1445 Larimer Street, closed for good after more than forty years of serving espresso drinks, deli sandwiches and baked goods to downtown residents and visitors. And then things really started to change on Larimer Square.
A deal to sell the entire Larimer Square real-estate package was announced in the fall, and the sale by Jeff Hermanson (who had owned Larimer Square since 1993) to Asana Partners closed in mid-December. In the meantime, entrepreneur Josh Sampson, founder of TheBigWonderful, Neon Baby, Denver Bazaar and other ventures, had opened a couple of new projects on the block, including Farmers Market LSQ, a collection of Denver food artisans peddling breads, pastries and other goods inside the former home of the Market.
That was just a stepping stone in the evolution of the space, which this week reopened as Larimer Records Cafe, Sampson's collaboration with vinyl expert and musician Eddie Roberts of New Mastersounds, Color Red and the Colorado Sound. Like many of Sampson's other projects, Larimer Records Cafe is a little tricky to define, as it combines elements of a traditional coffeehouse and restaurant with music and entertainment.
Ghosts of former patrons of the Market might roll their eyes over phrases like "experiential" or "immersive" while sipping lattes and reading the Rocky Mountain News (in print, of course), but they'd at least recognize the coffee counter up front, the scattering of cafe tables in the cluttered entrance (spilling out onto the sidewalk), and even a few of the old deli cases in the back. Most of those have been removed, but you can still see baked goods, bowls of deli salads and other eats in a couple of the cases, now surrounded by high-end turntables, music memorabilia and racks of records.
Sampson has managed to maintain the space's sense of age and intimacy, in part by packing it with odds and ends from his past efforts, including The Lovin Cup Cafe, an eatery and live-music venue he ran in Brooklyn, New York, in the late-2000s before coming to Denver. "This has a piece of everything I've done over the past fifteen years," he explains.
On the food side, several of the vendors from Farmers Market LSQ are represented on the menu, including croissants and breads from Rebel Breads, hand pies from Hinman's Bakery, juices from Ya Ye, sandwich creations from Farm to Truck and coffee from Little Owl. So you can start out in the morning with a classic New York bodega-style bacon, fried egg and cheese sandwich, or enjoy a grass-fed burger or fried chicken sandwich for lunch or dinner. And with Larimer Street still closed to automobile traffic, you can hang out at an outdoor table, enjoy your coffee and read your news (more likely on your mobile device) when the weather's decent. A wide range of bourbon is one of the highlights of the full bar, if you need something beyond coffee or pressed juice.
And once you've finished your drink or sandwich (and washed the burger grease off your hands), you can set up at a listening station and give local bands and record labels a spin. The cafe also promises DJ appearances as well as record-release events and appearances by musicians.
The whole experience has been set up to meet current COVID-related restrictions and guidelines; Sampson says the record lounge side of the business was already ideally set up, with plenty of space between seating areas.
Larimer Records Cafe is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday at 1445 Larimer Street. Call or visit the cafe's website for more details.
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