After 25 years, Hard Rock Cafe closing in downtown’s Denver Pavilions

9.23D Hard Rock

Hard Rock Cafe has operated in downtown Denver for 25 years. (BusinessDen file)

July 29 will be the day the music dies.

Hard Rock Cafe plans to close its downtown Denver location for good that date, the Florida-based chain told the state this week.

The rock ‘n’ roll-themed restaurant has operated at the corner of Glenarm Place and the 16th Street Mall since 1998. It is an original tenant of the Denver Pavilions mall, which opened that same year.

The company informed the state of its plans to lay off the restaurant’s 54 employees in order to comply with the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act. 

A Hard Rock spokesman said July is when the restaurant’s lease ends.

“We are currently expanding operations in 50 locations within the next five years and are open to having another location within the Denver market, if the right space can be identified,” the spokesman said.

Hard Rock’s desire to leave the space isn’t necessarily a surprise, however. In early 2021, with the restaurant having been closed for months due to the pandemic, Hard Rock sued the mall’s ownership, which includes Denver-based Gart Properties. 

The company asked a judge to rule it could terminate its lease. Hard Rock said government COVID restrictions had “at times completely impaired, and otherwise rendered impracticable,” its ability to operate the restaurant. It also noted nearby properties had been vandalized during 2020 protests, and said its landlord was unwilling to give it a break on rent, which it hadn’t paid since March 2020.

Gart then countersued the chain, saying it was “using the pandemic as a pretext in a cynical attempt to cut costs company-wide.” The landlord said Hard Rock began asking for rent abatement in November 2019, months before the pandemic began.

Hard Rock reopened the Denver location in June 2021. It reached an undisclosed settlement with its landlord that September.

Hard Rock occupies 11,736 square feet, according to the litigation.

Gart Properties executives did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday. Hard Rock’s impending closure is just the latest big blow for the mall, which in the last two years has lost Banana Republic and Uniqlo.

The mall is located in Upper Downtown, which generally has more vacancy and challenges than the Union Station end. McDonald’s closed at the end of last year, and T.J. Maxx followed weeks later, both after operating along the 16th Street Mall for decades. Other spots that sit unused are the former Tokyo Joe’s at 1001 16th St. and the former PokeCity at 216 16th St.

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