James Lee, operator and co-owner of the Bitter Bar, is leaving the bar and food lounge in Boulder to pursue a new bar concept in Austin, Texas. One of the best bartenders in Colorado, Lee will pack up and move next month, with his last day at the Bitter Bar being Saturday April 20.
The Austin concept is still in the development stages, but some things are in place: a partner, Lee's best friend from childhood who has lived in Austin for the last 14 years, and the financing. With that secured, following his move to Texas, Lee will begin to iron out some details - a name and a space that fits the vision of providing an elevated cocktail bar experience where service is of outmost importance.
Lee has joined the hospitality industry early in his teens working at his family's country-style breakfast joint in the South. He went off to college and received a degree in engineering but bars and restaurants still called his name louder. In 1998, he moved to Boulder, attracted by the proximity to great skiing. His first bartending job was at Zolo, a restaurant that later became part of the Big Red F Group.
In 2009, Lee opened the Bitter Bar (originally named Happy Noodle), another Big Red F Group venture, and made that his home. A year later, he moved to Salida to pursue a business opportunity that proved unfruitful. It wasn't long after he returned to Denver, after brief stints at TAG and Le Grand Bistro, that Lee went back to the Bitter Bar, this time as co-owner and operator.
Lee promises to return to the Bitter Bar periodically and reveals that a five-year plan includes a move back to Denver.