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Downtown Denver businesses shutter as leaders continue push for post-pandemic revival

Three Saints Revival closure
Posted at 8:48 PM, Feb 20, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-20 22:48:50-05

DENVER — Several businesses in downtown Denver have recently announced their permanent closures despite city leaders' continued work toward pre-pandemic levels of traffic and occupancy.

Three Saints Revival, Avelina’s Kitchen and Bar, and Ana’s Norwegian Bakeri are among the businesses that have shuttered this month.

When Denver7 spoke to Ana Fanakra, owner of Ana’s Norwegian Bakeri, at Christmas, we highlighted the ways different cultures in our community celebrated the holiday season. Fanakra was excited to share her home country’s baked goods and customs.

But in early February — three months after the bakery’s grand opening — Fanakra closed the shop for the last time. She blames insufficient traffic over the winter months to sustain her business.

“February 3rd was our official last day... I closed at noon that day because we had made less than $100. And that, I think, says a lot,” Fanakra said. “It was a consistent issue.”

The often-cited issues of crime and homelessness were not factors. Fanakra said she had problems with neither during the months she was open. Instead, she blames a long permitting process that delayed her opening until November. She feels her business could have survived if it had opened during the busier summer months when there are consistently higher levels of foot traffic throughout downtown.

Fanakra is not alone. The Three Saints Revival restaurant in lower downtown announced this week it was permanently closing.

In a posting on its website, the restaurant’s team said they are “truly appreciative of the support” of their guests, but that they are unable to continue operations.

“We opened in late 2021 as a celebration after surviving the pandemic,” the post reads. “We’re so proud of what we built and operated and all the team-members that brought it to life day-in and day-out, but downtown never recovered.”

Data from the Colorado Restaurant Association shows Denver had a net loss of 222 restaurants between July 2022 and July 2023, constituting more than 11% of the city’s total. Before the pandemic, Denver saw a 3% to 5% growth in restaurants each year. The Colorado Restaurant Association blames several factors facing business owners.

“The challenges facing Denver’s local restaurants are daunting — remote work reducing foot traffic, safety concerns related to the unhoused population downtown, and a minimum wage surpassing major cities like Los Angeles and New York,” said Colorado Restaurant Association President and CEO Sonia Riggs in a statement.

Kourtney Garrett, executive director of the Downtown Denver Partnership, acknowledged that “we need to see more people downtown” in order for long-term economic stability. However, she said some data points make the DDP optimistic.

Findings released this month show a steady increase in people coming downtown on a weekly basis since 2021, which Garrett said is at 91% of pre-pandemic levels at some weeks. At the same time, though, office vacancy downtown remains high, eliminating an important customer base for businesses.

“The last 18 months have almost been a tale of two cities,” Garrett said. “We see these positive trends, yet we know that the environment still is not what it was pre-pandemic, particularly in the retail and food and beverage industry, which is already a difficult industry to begin with. We do see that there’s a continued challenge.”

“We need people to spend their time and spend their money in downtown Denver,” Garrett said.

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