DENVER BUSINESS JOURNAL — When Kim DeLancey and Ron Cito, the final owners in the storied 95-year history of Patsy’s Italian Restaurant in Denver's Lower Highland neighborhood, decided they wanted to retire and shut down the institution, they sought out Sean and Betsy Workman, owners of South Broadway mainstay The Hornet. But that didn’t make the transition a smooth one for the Workmans, who opened casual-continental-food eatery Acova in the location in June.
Some of the long-time regulars — those who celebrated prom or their wedding or their children’s baptisms at the iconic restaurant — were angry that the place that somewhat defined the neighborhood was gone. When the already-ailing Cito died not long after the sale, the Workmans attended his wake and said it was “uncomfortable” until friends within the family spoke up for them.
Four-and-a-half months after its June 1 opening, Acova is meeting financial expectations and has given new life to the old space, adding a 120-seat patio on the south side of the restaurant where concrete used to be and attaching a small playground area to it to make it a family-friendly location. But the hardest work they are doing is inviting in the old regulars and trying to win them back one by one — a battle they believe they are winning gradually.
“There are a lot of naysayers who don’t like us without knowing any better. And they come in one at a time. And we turn them,” Sean Workman said. “Everybody’s kind of upset. You bring them in and fill them with food and kindness.”
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