By Kevin Collison
Cafe al Dente is closing after 17 years in the River Market, the first business to depart following the purchase of its building and others along Delaware Street by a Denver investor.
The Italian restaurant posted on its Facebook Page this week it was being “kicked out” of its space at 412 Delaware St., observing “the new building owner has decided we don’t meet his vision and will not renew our lease.”
But Craig Slawson, the landlord who now owns the restaurant’s building and other historic buildings on the west side of Delaware from Third Street to Independence, said the restaurant had been given an opportunity to stay.
“We offered them a renewal lease, with a bump up of course, and they rejected it,” Slawson said. “In the meantime, we’ve slotted somebody else into that space.
“We can’t announce the name yet, but it’s a local that does craft and organic and sustainable dishes, a bistro and probably a wine cellar.”
That’s not how Cafe al Dente owner Eric Dwyer reported the exchange with Slawson.
“We tried to work out a contract agreement and agreed to a price,” he said. “We wanted a five-year lease and they wanted a three-year lease.”
Dwyer said Slawson agreed to three years, but when he tried to complete the new agreement, he received no response from him.
“Basically, I’m not the kitschy, cool, restored barn wood on the walls kind of place he’s looking for,” Dwyer said. “He told me I don’t fit with his vision for the street.”
The restauranteur said has no plans to reopen Cafe al Dente elsewhere.
“I’m 48, and to open a restaurant costs $30,000- to $50,000 and work it 24 hours a day,” he said.
His last day of operation will be Saturday.
“I’d like to thank all the loyal customers who have come to my restaurant for 17 years,” he said. “I’ll miss them.”
In addition to his new tenant for the Cafe al Dente space, Slawson said he hopes to announce another three food and beverage establishments for his properties along Delaware soon.
In a previous interview, the new owner observed there were 33 “doors” on Delaware and only seven were for merchants. He said he planned to bring in businesses to enliven the street.
Slawson also agreed to host an old streetcar at Fifth and Delaware, adjacent to Cafe al Dente, with plans to convert it into an ice cream parlor.