It doesn’t take an expert to realize that the world we live in now is different from before the pandemic: inflation is skyrocketing, including rents and operating costs, and factors as crime and homelessness are also on the rise. Combined with a supposedly lower number of people on the move, these factors have led many to believe that “downtown is dead” as businesses — restaurants, in particular — are abandoning downtown and opting for downtown locations instead. suburb.
A Denver staple, however, feels different. Mexican restaurant Rio Grande, which now has five Colorado outposts, has existed at its current location at 1525 Blake Street since 1999 and has been a local favorite for high margins and staple foods like fajitas and tacos for more than two decades. Like many of its peers in the industry, the restaurant is packing up, but not closing or leaving town.
In fact, he doesn’t even leave the neighborhood. The Rio will reopen in the first week of June at 1745 Wazee Street, a few blocks from its current location, even closer to Coors Field
Founder and owner Pat McGaughran admits there has been “a tremendous amount of change in LoDo” since the Rio opened. But he says the restaurant is moving minutes away just to grow, not to escape. ” It’s our house. That’s kind of where we made our mark, in downtown Denver,” McGaughran says, noting that he’s seen changes happening in the area “block by block.”
The Rio’s new block is where McGaughran says he saw “good revival” happening, which makes it attractive to a business owner like him. The restaurateur insists he’s ‘in for the long haul in downtown Denver’, despite some buying into the ‘downtown is dead’ narrative – which he disagrees with .
McGaughran notes that Denver, like many other places around the world, faces a “humanitarian crisis” that has yet to be answered, but he believes that if he and his cohorts “continue to invest in the region and keep it going,” there will be more opportunities to help people.
“I’m dug,” he insists. He also remembers being told Downtown was dead in 1999, when he first chose to open his beloved restaurant in LoDo. “I see people making big grassroots moves — and beyond — in Denver,” he notes. “I think LoDo is, and will be in the long run, a destination for people looking for entertainment in the arts. [Downtown] really is at the heart of so much. How could he be dead?
While the pandemic has certainly taken its toll, he adds, “I don’t see any signs of finality for Denver. I am a downtown enthusiast.
McGaughran is looking forward to moving into the new space, which he says will keep operations on one floor instead of the two-level configuration at the current location. The Rio team is also planning exciting ways to incorporate new elements that will modernize the longtime favourite.
The Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant is currently located at 1525 Blake Street and is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. For more information, visit www.riograndemexican.com.