Campus & Community

Rule change gives new hope to Crimson and Gold restaurateurs

The city of Denver has reinstated the liquor license application for the Crimson and Gold restaurant, a steak and burger place preparing to open in the former Aroma Café at 2017 S. University Blvd.

A hearing is set for Aug. 2 to decide whether restaurateurs Kevin and Craig Caldwell should receive a hotel and restaurant liquor license for the business, which is immediately south of the Conoco station at Asbury Avenue.

The Caldwells’ previous attempt to qualify for a license was defeated earlier this year after the University pointed out to city officials that the restaurant was within 500 feet of the Ricks Center for Gifted Children, 2040 S. York St; Ricks is southwest of the restaurant across an alley.

The applicants maintained that the city was misinterpreting the law and inconsistent in applying it.

In March, an administrative hearing officer ruled that the Crimson and Gold was only 70 feet from Ricks, not the 500 feet required. He recommended that the application be defeated as part of the city’s “statutory duty to protect school children from intoxicated customers . . .  noise and noxious fumes.” Penny May, director of Excise and Licenses, agreed with the hearing officer and the application failed.

Discussions ensued, spearheaded by City Councilman Chris Nevitt, whose district includes most of DU and the Crimson and Gold location. “This was not a situation that anybody anticipated,” Nevitt says.

The talks led to a new rule that the city adopted on June 25. The rule disqualified the 500-foot distance requirement for schools operating on a college campus if a hotel and restaurant or brewpub license was issued for any location on that campus.

“What the rule change did was to eliminate an ambiguity,” Nevitt says. “Excise and License was confused.”

Three days later, May issued an order resurrecting the Caldwells’ application.

“He [Nevitt] did an incredible job putting himself in the middle to find a compromise that works for everybody,” Caldwell says. “And I think that’s what got accomplished.”

DU officials and the Caldwells are working out an agreement on ways to insulate the Ricks Center from the undesirable effects of a bar business. Both sides say they are confident an arrangement will be reached prior to the Aug. 2 license hearing.

“Things are going in a positive direction,” says Neil Krauss, DU assistant vice chancellor for business and financial affairs. “We are generally in agreement.”

In the meantime, the restaurateurs are proceeding with extensive renovations to the 3,500-square-foot property, which they leased late last year. Plans call for a DU-theme restaurant that will specialize in burgers at lunch, then add steaks, fish and a nightly special in the evening.

“It’s like Park Burger, a high-end burger with different toppings,” Caldwell says. Park Burger is at 1890 S. Pearl St. in Platt Park.

Caldwell says the restaurant’s primary market is community residents, office workers from Colorado Boulevard, and DU students, faculty and staff.

“We didn’t build this to be a party bar,” Caldwell says. “We built it to serve the whole community — DU and the neighborhood. And hopefully we can pull that off.”

Seating will accommodate nearly 100 customers in booths and tables, and plans are being formed for a backyard patio with a wall as high as the city’s new zoning code will allow. If things go well, Caldwell hopes to open between Aug. 15 and the beginning of fall classes on Sept. 13.

The Crimson and Gold will be managed by Craig Caldwell’s son, Andrew Caldwell, who is just short of a BSBA degree from DU in real estate and construction management. Andrew Caldwell has managed the families’ beach club/restaurant in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

“My brother and I grew up in the DU neighborhood and there is a strong connection there,” Caldwell says. “We’re really psyched.”

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