Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Liquor license approval puts Crimson and Gold in the pink


Workers touch up the front facade of the the Crimson and Gold, a new bar and restaurant in the DU neighborhood. Photo: Nathan Solheim

Crimson and Gold, a new bar and restaurant targeted for south University Boulevard, has won permission to sell booze with its burgers.

Owners of the new restaurant at 2017 S. University Blvd. reached an agreement with the University of Denver that cleared away DU’s opposition to liquor and music licenses at the site and smoothed the way for the city of Denver to grant approval, which it did Tuesday.

“We’re pretty excited,” says co-owner Kevin Caldwell. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Months, in fact. But despite difficult negotiations, the end result was two licenses based on four stipulations. One is that when the restaurant builds its backyard patio, it will surround the area with “walls, fencing and landscape to provide a visual barrier” between the restaurant and the Ricks Center for Gifted Children. The Ricks parking lot and playground are across an alley directly west of the restaurant; the building is slightly south.

Other points prohibit access to the patio area from the alley, ban smoking anywhere outside the rear of the building and limit live music so Ricks will be noise-free during regular school hours or evening events.

Caldwell and his brother, Craig Caldwell, leased the former Aroma Café and Hookah Bar space just south of the Conoco station in December 2009. The veteran restaurateurs planned to renovate the site, obtain a liquor license and open in March or April. All went well until the University said it would to object to the license, arguing that the proposed bar was within 500 feet of the Ricks Center, a pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade school. The University expressed strong concerns that the bar might adversely impact the health and safety of students at the school. A city hearing officer backed up DU, and in late March the Caldwells were denied the chance to sell alcohol.

Three months later, their application was reinstated when the Department of Excise and Licenses adopted a new rule exempting restaurants from the 500-foot requirement under certain circumstances.

Negotiations continued and seemed to be on track. But at the reinstated license hearing on Aug. 2 the agreement fell apart.

Denver City Council President Chris Nevitt urged the parties to keep talking, and Caldwell says it had a positive effect.

“Chris Nevitt was very helpful in facilitating conversations between the parties and bringing common sense to the situation,” Caldwell says of the council president, whose district seven includes the restaurant and most of DU.

Talks settled on the four stipulations, on getting approval from the absentee property owner, accommodating University covenants as to liquor sales, and granting assurances acceptable to both sides. At the last minute, the parties agreed. DU lifted its objections. On Aug. 24 the city granted the Caldwells’ request for a hotel and restaurant liquor license and a cabaret license that would allow live music at no more than 10 events per month or 75 per year.

“For the most part we’re happy,” Caldwell says, noting that the dispute “set us back half a year.” But he’s also eager to complete gutting the 3,500-square-foot restaurant and opening for business as soon as Sept. 3. “Right now it’s looking about 85 percent certain,” he says.

To DU officials, the requirements attached to the license were crucial.

“With the conditions attached to the license, the University feels that Ricks students will be protected,” said Neil Krauss, assistant vice chancellor for business and financial affairs. “In addition, the University is comfortable that it will be able to work with both the Crimson and Gold owners and their staff.”

Plans call for a DU-themed restaurant that will specialize in burgers at lunch, then add steaks, fish and a nightly special in the evening.

“We think the DU community is really going to like the place,” Caldwell says. “We believe we’re going to be good neighbors, and it’s going to be positive for DU.” 

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