Brightmarten in Bonnie Brae is closing down restaurant in Denver on January 16th

Jared Riggs has been washing dishes in his own restaurant for three months.

The Brightmarten co-owner said it has been difficult to find staff, as most restaurants can understand, and rising delivery costs are holding back business.

“The past few months have been particularly tough as the COVID has kept two people out and about at the same time and sales just aren’t there to back it up, so we’re tired,” Riggs said.

Instead of closing its doors for another winter, Brightmarten has decided to close completely.

The upscale American restaurant on 730 S. University Blvd. in Bonnie Brae will finally close its doors on Sunday after four years of business activity.

“We close out of necessity,” said Riggs. “We can no longer make it work financially.”

The 3,000-square-foot restaurant, which opened in 2018, is also selling its assets, including equipment and its three-year lease. Riggs said he and his co-owners invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in renovating the space. Real estate agent David Schneider from Axio Commercial Real Estate represents Brightmarten.

Last winter, Brightmarten closed its dining room with take-away three evenings a week from October to May due to the pandemic.

Courtesy Brightmarten via BusinessDen

Brightmartens short rib stroganoff.

Riggs said the restaurant’s sales were “still quite behind 2019” and have not recovered since the pandemic broke out. He added that Brightmarten typically needs 20 employees but has not been able to hit that mark in recent months.

“We have a seasonality,” said Riggs. “We were historically busy in the winter before the pandemic broke out, and the summers are a little quieter for us. So the unfortunate thing about COVID in general is that it was the worst case scenario for eating in winter, a time when we had to be busy. “

The menu items at Brightmarten include mushroom risotto, beet and beef tartare and a Juicy Lucy – a burger with cheese in a patty. Owners Riggs, Wade Nelson, Josh Prater and Jake Grant met while working at the Rioja and Euclid Hall restaurants in Larimer Square.

Riggs, who also owns Wing Hut and Wood Paddle Pizza & Tap in Aurora, both of which are more of a takeaway-centric concepts, said it was difficult to keep a largely dining restaurant afloat during the pandemic.

“Since we’re a food-focused business, we have 110 seats here and we don’t fill them. We pay rent for them so it’s hard to justify the deal, ”Riggs said.

In the past four months, Brightmarten has raised its menu prices three times to keep up with grocery costs, but they’re still not in the market, Riggs said.

“We are financially at the end of our runway,” he said.

And while they’re ready to leave the business, Riggs says they’ll miss the relationships they’ve built over the past four years with their landlord, their co-workers, and their neighborhood.

“Now we’re going to take a deep breath, maybe take a road trip and settle down before we decide to do something next,” he added.

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