Openings and Closings

Without Performances or Conventions, Rialto Cafe Decides to Drop the Curtain

The Rialto Cafe relied on downtown office workers, theater patrons, tourists and conventioneers to fill its dining room.
The Rialto Cafe relied on downtown office workers, theater patrons, tourists and conventioneers to fill its dining room. Danielle Lirette
One of the country's hottest musicals, Hamilton, was supposed to start a three-month-run at the Buell Theatre on August 12, but COVID-19 put the kibosh on that — as well as hundreds of other performances and downtown events that normally draw crowds who spend money at bars and restaurants before and after shows and conventions.

Downtown restaurants relied on those theater and convention crowds to pack dining rooms. Today, with dining rooms limited to 50 percent capacity, it would be impossible to accommodate the hungry hordes...but they're not coming downtown, anyway.

As a result, many downtown restaurants are barely hanging on, and one, the Rialto Cafe, just decided to drop the curtain after 23 years in business on the mall at 934 16th Street. Restaurant owner and partner Kevin Brown announced that the Rialto will close after brunch service at 2 p.m. on Sunday, August 16.

In a written statement, Brown explained that "with so many of these closures and cancellations, we are not able to sustain our business and its operations."

Beyond the canceled shows and conventions, other business travel and tourism are significantly down, and many employees of downtown businesses are working from home. So offices and hotels nearby, including the Marriott Courtyard above the Rialto Cafe, are nearly empty.

The restaurant is named after the Rialto Theater, which opened on the corner of 16th and Curtis streets in 1916, presciently advertising "perfect ventilation; air changed every three minutes" as one of its main draws. But that's not enough in the age of COVID-19.

The Rialto Cafe is open for lunch and dinner now through Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on its final Sunday. Call 303-893-2233 for details and reservations.
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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation