When the space in the old Olinger Mortuary complex reopens in November, it will be filled by a Post Chicken & Beer outpost, a successful concept that chef Dave Query and his Big Red F company first introduced in Lafayette in 2014, and have since grown to six locations...and counting, with another spot set to open in Fort Collins in a few weeks, after an Estes Park addition in July.
But Lola was one of a kind. When it opened in 2002 at 1469 South Pearl Street, it moved into a restaurant space that had previously held Micole, and brought a breath of fresh air — and incredible coin margaritas — to what would become an increasingly important restaurant block. But Lola didn't wait around. Four years later, Big Red F moved Lola to the Olinger space at 1575 Boulder Street, kick-starting the transformation of that area into an even hotter restaurant destination. It was a brave, risky move, but it paid off.
With more and more restaurants moving into LoHi, though, Lola made a major transformation in spring 2019, after the departure of founding chef/partner Jamey Fader, lightening the interior with a more nautical theme and adding some more exotic dishes to the menu. But then came the pandemic.
While fried chicken was a big hit during the shutdown days, Mexican seafood didn't translate as well. And by the time restrictions were lifted, new, more casual Mexican joints — with a focus on tacos and big drinks — had come into the neighborhood. Places like My Neighbor Felix and Bartaco attracted crowds that wanted to celebrate being able to be out and about again. They weren't looking for a destination dinner.
Lola's time was up, but after a good, long run of close to twenty years. I got the news from Query at Lola's last brunch, where a few of the faithful from the first spot — who continued brunching at the restaurant through two locations and two decades, even as they started clamoring for a Post in the neighborhood a few years ago — joined in a last toast with Dave and Dana Query and Jen Broyles, who wasn't yet 25 when she became manager at the first Lola.
“Jen, Dana, and I deeply appreciate all the support and enthusiasm you’ve given Lola during her first four years on South Pearl and the last fifteen in her corner casa on 16th and Boulder streets,” Dave Query says to all of Lola's regulars. “And special thanks and forever appreciation to all the amazing chefs and tireless front-of-house staff who worked so, so hard to make Lola successful for the last two decades. We couldn’t have done any of it without you.”
Query had notified the staff last week that Lola would be closing; they've all been placed at other Big Red F restaurants and will be returning to this location when it reopens as the Post..
In the meantime, over the next few months the space will be transformed — but the big bar and great outdoor deck will remain. The downstairs space will be changed from Belola to a more intimate private party room. Broyles thinks a few Lola-style specials might appear on the menu at this Post; after all, the chicken-and-waffle item on the brunch menu didn't exactly fit in with Mexican food. And while there are plenty of other Mexican options in the neighborhood now, there's definitely a shortage of chicken. “We’re confident that our gluten-free, Colorado-style fried bird, farm-fresh sides and food-friendly craft brews will find a great home in this ever-evolving neighborhood,” Query says.
Big Red F has other projects, of course. Things are going swimmingly for the Jax Fish House locations (six altogether, including one in Kansas City), Query reports. In Boulder, the West End Tavern has been packing in crowds, and Centro Mexican Kitchen is also going strong, and will keep some Mexican flavors in the group.
But for now, the party is over at Lola. The doors were locked tight by 3 p.m. on Sunday, when two young women — the kind of millennials who were a rare sight in this neighborhood when Lola first opened in LoHi — tried to get in.
"Looks like it's closed," one said.
"Guess we'll have to go to Felix," said the other.
They don't know what they missed.