The iconic White Fence Farm restaurant in Lakewood is closing Sunday.
On its final day in business, crowds lined up before the restaurant opened to get one last chance to taste its iconic fried chicken, pickled beets, bean salad and corn fritters.
The restaurant, which is also known for its farm-like setting with attractions that include a petting farm, gift shop, duck pond, stage and dining hall, has run into financial difficulty, operating at a net loss for about a year, according to General Manager Whitney Carloss.
"Over the last four to five years, Denver has changed dramatically, with 200-plus restaurants opening a year. We’ve noticed a dramatic decline in customers," Carloss said. "People come to White Fence Farm once a year to celebrate a birthday or anniversary, but it’s more of a destination than a frequent location for people."
Carloss also cited employment as a factor in the decision to close.
"It's hard to get and retain good work," Carloss said.
White Fence Farm currently employs 91 part-time and full-time workers, as well as seasonal workers.
Carloss said those employees were given about 60 days notice and were able to stay on until closing
"They'll get great references from the owners and myself," Carloss said. "They will not have a hard time finding another job in any avenue that they pursue."
Charlie Wilson first opened White Fence Farm in July 1973 after converting it from a working hay and cattle farm into the restaurant it is today.
The restaurant changed hands in 2014, when veteran restaurateurs Tom Piercy and Craig Caldwell bought it under a parent company -- P&C Family Farms Restaurants -- for an undisclosed purchase price.
Both Piercy and Caldwell previously owned restaurants in Denver and announced plans to expand the restaurant by opening satellite locations throughout metro Denver. The last satellite outpost, in Capitol Hill, closed in February of this year.
"Nobody could predict the change in Denver labor and everything just booming, so many restaurants opening, all these people moving here ... getting food delivered to your door, so many factors that contributed to it," Caldwell said.
Its specialty is a "family-style farm chicken" dinner featuring fried chicken and unlimited appetizers of bean salad, pickled beets corn fritters and coleslaw. Cottage cheese is also available upon request.
P&C Family Farms Restaurants was also the subject of three recent lawsuits for things like breach of contract and goods sold/delivered from food distribution companies, all of which have since been closed.
Carloss said she recommends anyone interested in visiting the restaurant before it closes make a reservation. Click/tap here for the White Fence Farm website.
The restaurant is at 6263 W. Jewell Ave. in Lakewood.