King castle

Denver’s Breakfast King is definitely closing, staff received little notice

The king is dead.

Denver’s iconic Breakfast King restaurant on the corner of South Santa Fe Drive and Mississippi Avenue closed for good on Monday, longtime waiter Lori Prien confirmed.

“My boss called me yesterday and told me not to come because we were closing the shop,” said Prien, who has worked at the restaurant since 1989. “I’m in shock. I’m 55, I don’t want to start in another restaurant.

Opened in 1975, Breakfast King has often landed on local “Best Of” lists for its vintage decor, wood-paneled dining room, orange vinyl booths, and expansive menu featuring Greek, Mexican, and American fare.

Open 24/7 for decades, Breakfast King has significantly reduced its hours during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prien said business was still strong in recent months, but supply shortages made things difficult.

“It’s been a nightmare,” she says. “Last week we were running out of meat, drinks, take out boxes, everything.”

Hiring staff has been difficult, Prien said.

“There was just no one there to nominate,” she said. “In the old days, we never had to advertise. We couldn’t find any cooks. We had ads on Craigslist and a “now hire” sign in the window for the first time that I can remember. “

Iconic Denver institution Breakfast King closed its doors for good on January 3. (David Gilbert, The Colorado Sun)

The starting salary for servers was just under $ 10 an hour plus tips, Prien said, and cooks started at just under $ 20 an hour.

Breakfast King received two loans from the federal paycheck protection program, according to public records. One granted in May 2020 was $ 159,739 and is listed as refunded, and another was granted in March 2021 for $ 223,632, but its refund status is not available. Loan data indicated that the restaurant had 22 employees.

Breakfast King has drawn anger online in its last few months with a sign posted on the door that read, “WE ARE STAFF OUT OF STAFF. PLEASE BE PATIENT WITH THE STAFF WHO HAVE PRESENTED. NOBODY WANTS TO WORK.

“I added this to my list of places to never go,” read a post on a Reddit thread about the sign that spanned over 900 comments. “Even though they remove the sign, they just announced that they’re the kind of people I never want to support.”

The owners of Breakfast King did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the closure. Tom Andrianakos, the restaurant’s accountant, also confirmed the closure.

Prien said she loved working at Breakfast King.

“It was such a joy,” she said. “You can be yourself, you can joke, and customers come from all walks of life. “

She mostly worked days, but said the real action took place during the cemetery shift.

“One night this biker club got into a fight with these cowboys,” she recalls. “One of the cowboys got out and drove his car in the club president’s motorcycle, but when he left he left his bumper and license plate behind. The biker gang told the cops, “You better hope you find this guy before we do.” You just had to laugh.

Prien said she was heartbroken over the sudden closure of the restaurant.

“We knew it was a possibility, but they didn’t give us the opportunity to say goodbye,” she said. “We have people who have been coming almost every day for years. Some of them, we were all the family they had.

John Coyner of Castle Rock stopped by Monday and found the restaurant was closed.

“I’m stunned,” said Coyner, who said he’s been coming to Breakfast King for over 30 years.

There is a possibility that another restaurateur will buy the restaurant and keep it in business, Prien said, but she is concerned it will be sold to the highest bidder and redeveloped. The property is not currently listed for sale on real estate websites.

Breakfast King’s tables were still set on Monday morning. Staff closed the night before not knowing the restaurant was closing for good, waiter Lori Prien said. (David Gilbert, The Colorado Sun)

Denver has lost several other beloved diners overnight in recent years. Tom’s Diner, along East Colfax Avenue on Capitol Hill, closed as pandemic closures began in March 2020, following a long battle over whether to preserve its historic Googie architecture, flamboyant mid-century modern style. 20th Street Cafe closed the same month after 74 years in the Ballpark neighborhood. Denver Diner on Speer Boulevard and West Colfax Avenue closed in January, citing increased food and labor costs and reduced traffic.

Losing diners in Denver means losing a piece of the city’s soul, said Bree Davies, who hosts the City Cast Denver podcast and was a longtime Breakfast King fan.

“These spaces are so important in bridging the gaps in humanity,” Davies said. “At Breakfast King you would see cops sitting next to punks, or construction workers getting ready for their shift sitting next to someone who had been partying all night. There aren’t many places left where people of various economic statuses are close to each other. We take them for granted. We are losing our community spaces. What are we going to do about it? “

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