The Paramount Cafe, owned by Premier Ventures Inc., closed on Monday, September 3, after 33 years in business on the 16th Street Mall. Mike Plancarte and John Ott, the owners of Premier, also announced they would be closing their other three establishments, Lala's Pizza + Wine Bar, Govnr's Park Tavern and Marlowe's, by the end of the year.
Why would a seemingly successful restaurant group close up shop? Among the reasons, Plancarte cites a combination of increased competition leading to a labor shortage and the rising costs of doing business. "There wasn't one big factor," he notes. "The advent of all these new restaurants and breweries and delivery companies is part of it."
Landlords are often vilified when longstanding businesses go under. But according to Plancarte, "We have a great relationship with our landlords. But we weren't going to be sustainable, so we thought it would be better to go out with our heads held high."
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Plancarte started at the Paramount Cafe as a busboy in 1995; by 199, he'd risen to general manager. A year later, he and Ott, along with other business partners no longer with Premier, purchased the bar, along with Marlowe's, Govnr's Park and Caldonia's, from the previous owner. In 2008, Plancarte and Ott opened Lala's, and in 2011 they closed Caldonia's.
While the closing of the Paramount Cafe came suddenly, Plancarte wanted to give the nearly 200 employees at the remaining restaurants as much notice as possible. He's already received commitments from many staff members to stay on until the last drink is poured, he says. For Govnr's Park, that will be November 11. Marlowe's and Lala's will follow on December 22 and December 23, respectively.
So there's no bad guy in this scenario, just a booming economy that puts additional strain on existing restaurants. Wages, rent, food costs and health care are all going up, while the customer base has long been established and increased competition makes it tough to draw new faces. In that sense, new Denver is winning while old Denver continues to disappear.
Over the coming months, Plancarte promises, he'll be working to make sure that customers are still happy while the restaurants remain, and that his employees are prepared for their next step.