Bonnie Brae restaurant puts dine-in service on ice for the winter

The partners behind Brightmarten, from left: Wade Nelson, Josh Prater, Jake Grant and Jared Riggs. (Photos by Thomas Gounley)

Brightmarten has decided to hibernate for the winter.

The upscale neighborhood American restaurant in Bonnie Brae shuttered its dining room Oct. 3 but will still offer takeout three nights a week throughout the winter.

“We’re concerned that once it gets cold and starts getting dark earlier, with only 10 tables inside, it wouldn’t be enough to pay the bills,” co-owner Wade Nelson said. “We love this neighborhood. But people are cautious about dining in, so we wanted to get ahead of the cold weather and other possible changes.”

He added, “It kind of feels like your life has been taken out from under you, but you just have to make those hard decisions to try to make sure we can maintain once spring comes.”

Brightmarten, at 730 S. University Blvd., reopened for dine-in service in June and for a final send-off had an in-house party last week.

“It was bittersweet,” Nelson said. “We were totally full inside and out on our last few nights and had such amazing support. It felt so good to hear how many people really embraced us in the neighborhood over the last two years. It made us very proud, but also who knows how business is going to be in the next few weeks or month?”

Brightmarten at 730 S. University Blvd.

The 3,000-square-foot Bonnie Brae spot opened in 2018 and offers elevated American dishes, such as mushroom risotto, beet and beef tartare and a Juicy Lucy — a burger with cheese inside the patty. Owners Nelson, Josh Prater, Jake Grant and Jared Riggs met while working at Larimer Square restaurants Rioja and Euclid Hall.

Although it will be closed until further notice for dine-in, the neighborhood restaurant will still offer takeout Thursdays through Saturdays with a limited menu starting this week. Nelson said each day will offer different dishes, such as Tex-Mex one day and curry on another.

In addition to takeout, the owners are finding various ways to utilize the space and their services to cover rent and other costs, Nelson said. They’re offering private cooking, wine or cocktail classes, chef’s dinners at home and have booked a couple of catering events. Nelson said the restaurant also plans to open small pop-up concepts to test out new food.

“If we were open for regular business on a cold Tuesday night, we have no idea how many people would come in and how much food we need to buy or how many people to have on staff,” Nelson said. “This gives us the opportunity to control our costs. Private events allow us to plan ahead and know how many people we will be serving each time, and we can estimate what our sales could be from takeout because have numbers from earlier in the year.”

Brightmarten will reopen in the spring, and while Nelson hopes it will be around in April, he said they want to make sure regulations are loosened and people feel comfortable returning.

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