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Bonnie Brae Tavern closing its doors after 88 years

Throughout its nearly nine decades, the restaurant stayed in the family the entire time.

DENVER — The owners of Denver's Bonnie Brae Tavern know what makes people love their restaurant.

"There's good pizza in this town, there is," said Ricky Dire, co-owner and chef. "But it doesn't taste like this, it just doesn't." 

It's the food Ricky Dire makes, and the feeling that his cousin and co-owner, Michael Dire, describes.

"It's nostalgia, probably," said Michael. 

Their grandparents, Carl and Sue Dire, opened the tavern in 1934. It's one of the oldest restaurants in Denver.

Now on the third generation of owners, with the fourth generation working at the place full time, they love their tavern because it's all their family has ever known.

That's what makes it so hard for them to close it.

Credit: Bonnie Brae Tavern
The original owners of Bonnie Brae Tavern, Carl and Sue Dire.

"We're very proud of the fact that we've been here for 88 years," said Michael. "I personally do not see it as a celebration. I'm more grieving, more than anything, the loss." 

Michael said it came down to making ends meet, and they couldn't anymore. 

"It's not viable like it once was," he said. 

Ricky added that customers have been begging him to keep it open, and he says it can be hard to explain all the factors that went into this decision.

"People forget this same building has been here for 88 years, we're lucky the electrical and the plumbing are still working today," said Ricky. 

Since the pandemic, they have also struggled to find staff.

Credit: Bonnie Brae Tavern
The only picture Michael can find of the inside of Bonnie Brae Tavern before it was renovated. The man in the tie is his grandfather, Carl Dire.

Just the other day, Ricky said a customer called him a sellout because the new owners will turn the tavern into a three story apartment complex.

"I said you know, I know everything evolves, and I know you’re upset you’re not going to get some of the best pizza in this town because yes we have that, I just said I don’t understand what that means -- I had to walk away," said Ricky.

Although there will be no official celebration, old customers and former staff are coming back.

 "I'm down for one last hurrah," said a a former worker saddling up to the bar. 

Ricky said his high school friends are even flying in because they told him "Oh my god Ricky we have to have one more pizza." 

The tavern will close on June 25, and although the building will be demolished, Michael said the new owners plan to display the neon sign on the new building.

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