With soft openings yesterday and today, then a loud and proud entrance onto the dining scene with the official launch this Friday the 13th, the latest Illegal Pete's at 2001 East Colfax Avenue has a jam-packed celebratory schedule that includes live musical acts all weekend and lots of food and drinks, of course.
The ninth location of the homegrown chain is 3,500 square feet, seats about 300 people, and is within walking distance from venues such as the Bluebird Theater, Sie FilmCenter, and the Lion's Lair. Serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night – open from 7 a.m. to 2:30 a.m., the Colfax space seems poised for triumph in the gritty section of "the longest, wickedest street in America."
Investing more than $1 million to fully refurbish the former IHOP and Mama's Kitchen A-frame, the team added a second-level mezzanine with seating and to serve as the stage for live entertainment. An extended commissary kitchen was added as well, where food will be prepped for this restaurant as well as the 16th Street Mall location, and the new patio comes complete with a projector for screening movies and sporting events. "With old buildings, you never know what you're going to get," said founder-owner Pete Turner. The property also has 30 parking spots in the rear.
The Illegal Pete's team, which got its start in Boulder in 1995, earned a reputation as a funky, fast-casual brand and music friendly business, providing free meals to touring artists and funding the local Greater Than Collective record label. Employees are paid well-above industry standard, at $17-plus an hour. However, Pete's has also struggled in the past two years, with the opening of the Fort Collins and Tucson (seventh and eighth locations respectively) where student-led protests brought criticism that the eatery's name was a dig at undocumented Mexican immigrants. To make nice in their new neighborhood, the team has introduced themselves to nearby businesses and East High School throughout the last couple weeks, handing out their signature mission style burritos for free, as the new staff is learning how to properly stuff and roll the filling and delicious portable meals.
Turner plans to expand to 25 restaurants in the next few years, in both Colorado – looking at RiNo and the Highland neighborhoods – as well as Flagstaff and Tempe, Arizona. Also on the horizon, the Illegal Pete's team is planning a 21st birthday celebration to rival their two decade festivity at Red Rocks last August. This weekend, guests can check out local band, 888 tomorrow evening, Saturday, May 14, the grand-opening party continues with giveaways, drink specials and live music from 6 p.m. to midnight.
All photos by Ryan Dearth