Jesus, it's only day three of the new year, and already, in the span of one weekend, three restaurants have shuttered on South Pearl Street. After 29 years, the venerable Pearl Street Grill locked its doors after service on Friday night, India's Pearl stopped slinging curries after New Year's Eve service, and OTOTO closed yesterday. That's a lot of action in just one block.
The owner of India's Pearl was visibly distraught on Friday when I stopped in after one last beer at Pearl Street Grill -- so distraught, in fact, that she refused to give her name. "I don't want my name to be mentioned, because I don't want to be associated with failure," she said, adding that the restaurant, which opened in 2008 in a space that has been home to many restaurants over the years -- including the original Lola and the original Sushi Den -- wasn't generating enough income to pay the bills. "We weren't making ends meet, and it was a crappy year that kept getting crappier as it went on."
But that's not all I gleaned while offering my condolences. The street was already buzzing with rumors surrounding the future of Pearl Street Grill and the trio of Den Corner restaurants: the flagship Sushi Den, OTOTO and Izakaya Den, all of which are umbrella'd under Hiro & Company, which is owned by Yasu and Toshi Kizaki.
Tyler Vorenkamp, Pearl Street Grill's general manager, divulged late last week that the Grill will be reopening in another restaurant space on South Pearl Street with a new name and concept. And there will be spaces available, because Ototo, which underwent both a concept and name change (from Den Deli) within a year of opening, is definitely no more. "The third restaurant of Hiro & Company will close indefinitely in order for the group to focus on future expansion plans," says Ellen Marchman, who handles the restaurant group's public relations efforts. "In order to move forward with 2012 expansion plans, OTOTO has closed, but details aren't finalized as to what the OTOTO space will become."
But for starters, Sushi Den, which long ago moved into the corner spot directly next door to Pearl Street Grill, is definitely expanding...into the Grill's vacated square footage. "The priority for Toshi and Yasu is to streamline operations to maintain the high level of quality of food and service, and the space next door was an ideal opportunity," explains Marchman.
It's already shaping up to be an interesting year for at least one Denver restaurant row.