Sexy Pizza, co-founded in 2008 by recent mayoral candidate Kayvan Khalatbari, just signed a lease at 2846 Fairfax Street, where it will open its fourth eatery in early 2020. The Park Hill location is part of a growth plan that Khalatbari says will be good for both employees and management.
The new outpost will be part of the Park Hill Commons development, which will include micro-apartments, townhomes and retail slots. Khalatbari admits that the development has been a point of contention in the neighborhood, but says he hopes that Sexy Pizza will be a positive addition. "With this new location, we plan on expanding our existing community engagement and employee initiatives for the benefit of Park Hill’s long-standing residents," says area manager/co-owner Kyle Peters. "We’re ready to be proactive and hit the ground running with these efforts.”
Khalatbari explains that benefits and employee participation are important aspects of his company, and something he wants to bring to Park Hill. "We're giving folks in the neighborhood the first opportunities for employment," he notes. "And we're looking into an employee-ownership mode. In the beginning, it was very difficult for us to offer the benefits we wanted to with just one or even two stores."
According to Khalatbari, keeping the business growing will help Sexy Pizza continue to offer benefits such as full medical and dental plans for full-time employees, 4 percent retirement-plan matching for anyone working at least twenty hours a week, and paid time-off accrual for all employees, regardless of hours worked. The company also offers free meals during shifts and equity sharing for managers.
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Peters, who was a manager but is now a co-owner in the business, is one example of Khalatbari's dedication to his staff. "We gave him equity to keep him in Denver," Khalatbari says, adding that "losing people to turnover is so costly to a business that offering benefits is more sustainable in the long term."
Sexy Pizza opened its first pizzeria in Capitol Hill before expanding to Platt Park and Jefferson Park four years later. Since the first pies were served, Khalatbari says the company has been dedicated to being "socially committed and politically active." In addition to championing cannabis rights, the co-owner says that giving homeless individuals and previously incarcerated people employment opportunities are at the top of his agenda. Other recent causes that the pizza chain has partnered with or donated to include the Harm Reduction Action Center (dedicated to reducing harm caused by drug use), Park Hill Collective Impact (supporting childhood development through age 25) and the Colorado Village Collaborative (providing solutions for homelessness).
Khalatbari's cannabis advocacy has continued beyond his early legalization efforts into campaigning for social use, even launching Sexpot Comedy, a pot-positive venue for standup comics. He points out that Denver's current social use regulations make it difficult for entrepreneurs to launch viable businesses, so he's currently working at the state level to help get new laws in place. "I can totally envision a place where pizza and cannabis can be enjoyed together — probably within the next 24 months," he says.
Northeast Denver is suddenly becoming a mecca for locally owned pizza joints. Sexy Pizza will join several other new pizzerias coming soon or already serving the surrounding neighborhoods, including Denver Pizza Co. at 908 Jersey Street, Esters at 2201 Oneida Street, and Brava! Pizzeria, which will soon move into 2245 Kearney Street. "I say the more the merrier on that front," Khalatbari states, pointing out that the pizza boom is part of overall growth in the area. "We're going to participate in that growth hopefully without being a burden to the neighborhood."