Steak won out over scooters.
Former restaurant owner Mike Stone is hoping to turn an scooter shop in the Lower Highlands, across from the Avanti restaurant marketplace, into a tavern.
Stone signed a 10-year lease at $6,500 per month for 3211 Pecos St., where he plans to open a restaurant called Station 32. He’s opening the restaurant in two phases. The first phase, which will cost about $500,000, will consist of a 55-seat restaurant and kitchen that will open this fall, Stone said.
Stone will then spend an additional $250,000 on expenses like inventory and staffing before the restaurant opens. Two private investors are providing funding for the project.
“We’re trying to make sure we don’t get in debt,” Stone said. “We don’t want to open doors and owe everyone in town money. I think that’s where a lot of people get in trouble.”
The second phase of construction will add on a rooftop patio. Stone originally planned to open Station 32 with the patio completed but ran into problems during the city’s permitting process.
“We were told that we couldn’t do (the patio) when we went in for our liquor license,” Stone said. “The neighborhood coalition said they frowned on it. But then they opened Avanti and they have a rooftop patio over there.”
He’s not sure when the patio will be completed but said the restaurant won’t need to shut down for construction on the roof. Once both phases are complete, the restaurant will total 14,000 square feet and seat 110 people.
Stone is in the process of hiring about 30 employees to staff the restaurant and is vetting two local chefs.
He said he has a few ideas for amenities that will set Station 32 apart from other eateries in the saturated LoHi restaurant market: a lower price point than its high-end neighbors and 15 parking spaces.
And Stone is installing electrical outlets under every booth and bar seat so patrons can charge their cell phones.
The restaurant’s menu will feature burgers, salads and other bar fare, with 12 to 14 beers on tap. Stone said he wants as many ingredients to be grown in Colorado as possible.
“We’re going to buy everything locally here – produce, meat, stuff like that,” he said. “A lot of people are doing that now, and we’re going to try it, as well.”
Keene Smith of KZ Smith & Co. is the head contractor on the project. Smith also owns the property and is renting to Stone.
This isn’t the first time that Stone, 63, has worked in restaurants. For 22 years, he was the part-owner of the Trinity Grille at 1801 Broadway before leaving in 2008 and trying his hand at another business venture.
“I had a friend who was trying to bring (California franchise) Fatburger to Colorado with Montel Williams as a backer,” he said. “They were looking to do from 12 to 15 stores and got seven opened before they figured they didn’t like the business.”
During his time in Denver, he has seen the Highlands restaurant scene evolve from family-owned Italian spots to hip taverns and burger joints targeting young professionals.
Stone, who was born in Leadville and raised in Pueblo, said Station 32 will likely be his last restaurant venture.
“I’m kind of old to be starting this,” he said. “When I got out of the Fatburger thing, I told myself I’d find something else to do. But I don’t want anything else. This is all I’ve done.”