Word of Mouth

The lease is up on the Hard Rock Cafe. The original Hard Rock Cafe

Want to get a piece of the rock? The town of Empire is now accepting proposals from restaurateurs who'd like to run the Hard Rock Cafe.

No, not the music-centric chain that has outposts around the globe, including a location on the 16th Street Mall. This is the original restaurant, which was serving food to hard-rock miners and other mountain folk at least forty years before the chain got its start in 1971.

You wouldn't think there would be much confusion between the original Hard Rock Cafe in the tiny town of Empire and that rocker-come-lately conglomerate, but there's been litigation over the issue. "It was before my time," says Jennifer Cade, Empire town clerk. "They had a little court case." As a result, the town can't advertise the restaurant outside of Colorado - but that's no real hardship, since the eatery's clientele is primarily made up of locals and travelers heading up Highway 40 from I-70.

Empire actually owns the storefront property, which is in the same building as the town's city offices. For the last five years, Dave Johnson has been leasing the place, running a breakfast-and-lunch joint (there's no liquor license). And while Johnson plans to reapply for an extension when his current lease expires on May 31, Empire is now advertising for other bids on this "turn-key operation with a cozy atmosphere and dining porch that faces the valley behind it."

Interested? Call Cade at 303-569-2978, and she'll send out a package.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun