Erin Markham, owner of the The Saucy Noodle ("If You Don't Like Garlic, Go Home"), found a surprising notice on the front of her 55-year-old restaurant at 727 South University on Monday, February 24: The city had received a Certificate of Demolition Eligibility Application notice from the building's owner.
Until Denver City Council tweaked the city's landmark rules last fall, this notice was called a Certificate of Non-Historic Status, but its meaning is the same: The owner would like to have the ability to demolish the building, and the city is making a last call to find out if anyone wants to file for landmark designation on the property. If no one does — and an applicant can be anyone from a red sauce-lover to a Denver City Council member, who would not even need to pay the $725 application fee — within a designated time period (March 17, in this case), the building's owner could be given the right to demolish the building within the next five years.
Markham, granddaughter of the Saucy Noodle's founder, Sam Badis, says the notice came as a complete surprise; she and her husband, Nathan, run the restaurant, and their lease isn't set to expire until the end of 2020. At the same time the notice appeared on the door, the filing showed up on the city's Landmark Preservation page on the Denver Community Planning and Development site. The landlord, who does business as Bonnie Brae Retail, has owned the building for as long as the Saucy Noodle has been serving up spaghetti and meatballs on the block.
"This is a complete disruption of my business," Markham notes. "This is how my staff found out, this is how my customers found out, this is how I found out. It's a complete disrespect. For 55 years of good tenants, have the decency to tell us in person."
The Markhams posted this message on the Saucy Noodle's Facebook page to let their customers know what's happening:
Dear Saucy Noodle family. Today we were totally blindsided by the picture below. We have had no communication from our landlord regarding this notice and we are extremely saddened by this on all levels. We have been tenants here for 55 years. We deserved to be notified, to let our staff know at least, they deserved better.
We currently have a lease to occupy the premises until December 31st of this year and have not been told anything otherwise.
We know the community is concerned about the future of the neighborhood, and sadly this only confirms your fears.
Please come talk to us and we will share as much as we know when and if we do.
Also please don't abandoned us, we need you now more than ever.
The Markhams and Saucy Noodle family
This is not the first time that such an application has been filed on the 700 block of South University Boulevard; last year Dire Investment LLC, which owns the even older Bonnie Brae Tavern, filed for a Certificate of Non-Historic Status. That restaurant has been open since 1934, and the posting sent shock waves through the neighborhood. Ultimately, though, no one filed an application for historic designation, and the certificate was granted. A deal is now in the works to sell the property occupied by the Bonnie Brae, as well as the surrounding land; if it comes to fruition in the next few months, a several-story apartment/retail complex will replace the longtime watering hole.
Those aren't the only changes on the block: The building just a few doors north of the Saucy Noodle and just south of the revamped Campus Lounge (third time's a charm), which is currently occupied by an INK! coffee shop, just changed hands for $2.45 million. And more deals are rumored on the block; the notice posted on the Saucy Noodle covers addresses from 715 to 731 South University.
Unlike at the Bonnie Brae Tavern, where the family owns both the restaurant and the property, the Markhams are tenants on that stretch. And while neighbors responded with anger when the Dires filed their application, regulars are now rallying around the Saucy Noodle.
Despite Markham's frustration at the situation, she says she doesn't think the building itself is worth being registered as a landmark, so she's not considering pursuing that angle. After the lease expiration, she notes, "Our plan was to try and relocate — something hopefully we could purchase," although now the timeline feels accelerated.
So far, no one else has filed for historic designation on the building, but you can expect this fight to stay spicy.
Update: This story has been updated to include comments from Erin Markham.
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