Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Illegal Pete’s on track to ‘Barack ’n roll’ by October

When Pete Turner opens his sixth Illegal Pete’s restaurant on Evans Avenue near the DU campus early in October, the first person he’s likely to toast is Barack Obama.

It’s not that the president is a big fan of Pete’s burritos. It’s that he’s a fan of small businesses and helping entrepreneurs like Turner get financing that the banking crisis placed out of reach.

“We had two loans fall through. It was brutal. But the stimulus bill of the Obama administration extended to the Small Business Administration and its lenders and that worked for us,” Turner says.

It took 20 months to line up the financing Turner needed to gut and renovate the former Piccolo’s — even though the five-restaurant Illegal Pete’s chain is financially healthy, Turner says, and just celebrated its 14th anniversary.

The break that helped Turner came in February with the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a package of “tax breaks, financial assistance and market enhancements” aimed at helping small businesses. Six months later, Turner started renovating the 55-year-old building at 1744 E. Evans Ave., which sat boarded up for several years.

“It’s a pretty comprehensive overhaul,” he says. “A new roof, electrical and upgraded systems. The city made us repair the curbs, which was unexpected, but it’s a nice improvement. I think it’s going to be beautiful.”

Anticipated opening is early October, maybe Oct. 4 or 5.

“We’re about five weeks out,” Turner says. “It’s been a long time coming.”

When finished, the California Mission District-style Mexican restaurant will open with inside seating for 90 and a 45-seat patio that will be open year-round, weather permitting. Cuisine will be an array of tacos, burritos and salads, plus breakfast items for early risers. For a look at the menu, visit

Turner sees the new restaurant’s clientele as being about 50 percent students and the other half a mix of DU faculty, staff and community residents.“There’s a pretty good customer base in the neighborhood,” he says. “I actually think the area is underserved commercially.”

The new Illegal Pete’s will be open from 7:30 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Wednesday and until 2:30 a.m. on weekends. The patio will open later and close earlier.

“We’re really excited,” Turner says. “The finish line is in sight.”

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