If you’ve dined at the Palm Restaurant, you’ve no doubt noticed the caricatures of guests that adorn the walls throughout the bar and dining rooms — and if you’ve dined at the Palm enough to be a regular, you might have noticed your own caricature among those faces. Now that the Palm has closed for an eight-week remodel, which will include tearing down the walls, what will happen to all those faces?
“We are modernizing the restaurant,” says Catherine Cooney, the Palm’s general manager. “The Denver Palm is turning twenty years old in July, and we knew it was time for a facelift.” And not just a facelift: The remodeling job will include an expansion of the private dining rooms and the bar area, adding booths and high-top tables.“Right now our bar is small and always crowded,” Cooney explains, adding that the private dining area will turn into three rooms that will open up into one large space that can seat over a hundred people.
“We are so excited,” Cooney continues. “The restaurant is going to look great. It was time for a renovation. We have talked about remodeling for so long.”
But what will happen to all those caricatures?
Turns out the faces will also be refreshed. “If any of our guests lose their picture, they will get a chance to get a facelift, too,” Cooney says. Not all of the original caricatures will be up when the Palm's doors reopen in early April, but she promises to do her best to have them hanging as soon as possible.
“We mostly put our regulars on the wall,” Cooney explains. “When someone famous comes in, we ask them to sign the wall and then we put up their caricature.” As a result, the walls boast a combination of national and local celebrities, as well as loyal Denver diners. Kevin Costner is on the wall, as is Forest Whitaker, along with the faces of past and current governors, mayors and other notables who've enjoyed power lunches in corner booths. And there are athletes, of course: Broncos John Elway, Peyton Manning, Champ Bailey, John Lynch, Brian Griese and Jake Plummer; Avalanche players Patrick Roy, Joe Sakic, Dan Hinote, Rob Blake, Milan Hejuk, Marc Crawford and Rockies players Troy Tulowitzki, Ubaldo Jimenez, Todd Helton and Jim Tracy.
For national figures, the caricatures were added after the autographs, and represent the work of many artists over the past two decades. “Right now we are looking for someone local to do our caricatures when we reopen,” Cooney says. “We want the caricatures to be drawn on the wall and no longer glued on.”
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The Denver Palm is part of a chain of 26 restaurants — 24 in the United States and two in Mexico — that will turn ninety this year. The first Palm opened in New York City in 1926; it was located near the offices of King Features Syndicate, part of William Randolph Hearst’s publishing empire, and in exchange for meals, some of the syndicate's cartoonists would draw samples of their work on the restaurant’s walls.
That tradition has been carried over into all Palm restaurants. The one downtown opened twenty years ago with just a hundred caricatures; there are several hundred on the walls now. Those walls will soon be gone, but when the remodeled Palm returns, so will the art. “I know our guest are going to love the renovations,” Cooney promises.