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RIP Breakfast King

Denver loses yet another late-night diner

Hey, it’s Bree. I’m here to talk to you about the death of diners. (Again.)

My memories of the Breakfast King are almost explicitly tied to my early- and mid-20s. Though Denver isn’t really that big, I recall that when we went out in LoDo on a Friday night (my best girlfriends were all bartenders within the downtown clubby hellscape, so while it wasn’t always my “scene” it was where I could see my besties and get free drinks), we always ended up at the Denver Diner (RIP) at the end of the night. However, if I was on South Broadway at the then-newly opened Hi-Dive to play or see a show, it almost always meant we would finish the night off at the Breakfast King. The two diners were minutes apart, but somehow felt like completely different places serving different purposes for my social life.

So earlier this week, when my friend David Gilbert at The Colorado Sun started posting concerns that the Breakfast King was possibly closed for good, my heart dropped. The last few weeks had been total shit, and on top of it all, we had already lost so many of my favorite places in Denver since the start of the pandemic – could it really be true? Could the Breakfast King be no more? 

Arts and culture maven Bree Davies on the podcast backed by WashPo pros, responding to the Boulder tragedy – and whether Frank Bonnano will run for mayor of the Mile High City.

Turns out yes, it could be true. The King was dead, Gilbert proclaimed. He called me up and asked for my feelings on the BK’s demise. I’ve been very vocal about the danger of Denver losing these types of places where we’re able to commune without concern over the class dynamics that silently infiltrate almost every other kind of place where we choose to eat in public.

(And a quick disclaimer: Before you bombard my inbox screaming about the fact that the Breakfast King’s owners did indeed post a sign blaming workers for not wanting to work, yes, I saw that. Yes, I thought it was fucked up. Yes, I was deeply saddened for the folks who had been working there for decades, who got only a phone call telling them they were out of work. It’s messed up. I hate it.)

For me, the Breakfast King was frozen in time in the best way possible – it reminded me of the days when, after midnight, there would be no one on the road. After spilling out of the bar, we’d pile into a car and someone would yell “Breakfast King!” and that was that. No discussion needed. We knew there would be a booth big enough for 10 of us. The food was always served quick and hot, and the waitresses were kind, fast, and always ready to fill your coffee cup.

Me sitting in that exact same booth circa 2011.

I have so many weird memories of that bright orange and wood-paneled place – the time my band, dressed head-to-toe like we were The Strokes, took our “official” band photos sitting along the BK’s counter. Or the time I couldn’t wait for someone to get out of the ladies room, so I used the men’s. (Which was fine, until I realized there was a second door to the bathroom that came directly from the kitchen, and a cook was coming in juuust as I was washing my hands. Talk about awkward.)

But what I’ll remember the most about The Breakfast King is how mostly mundane and pedestrian it was. It was a place you took for granted because it was always there – always open, always offering way too many things for every palate. There was hardly ever a wait, the service was great, and the people-watching was the only world-class thing about Denver. The unremarkable nature of diners is the thing that makes them so loveable. We just assume they will always be there and that they will always embrace us with their consistency and lack of judgement. But if Denver has shown us anything in the last five years, it’s that diners are in danger. Diners are not forever.

If Pete’s or McCoy’s or even Denny’s is your spot, enjoy it as much as you can (or as much as you can in a pandemic, anyway). As I mourn the loss of the Denver Diner, Racines, Pete’s Greek Town, Tom’s Diner (and potentially as of this writing, Swift’s on Santa Fe), I’ll try to remember a more mundane Denver. A Denver that was less concerned about money and material things. A Denver that was not that interested in how it looked on Instagram and more content with the weirdness and depth of our once unobserved lives. 

— Bree Davies, A Diner Expert in Terminal Mourning


Other Denver Odds and Ends

🍎 Are you a Denver teacher? Let’s talk: With school back in session after the winter break, we want to hear from teachers. What are your concerns heading into this term? How are you feeling? What is frustrating you right now? Email us at or leave us a voicemail with your contact information at 720-500-5418.

⛔ A “nightclub empire now crumbling”:
The city of Denver has officially made the decision to revoke Beta nightclub’s liquor license citing a concern for the neighborhood’s safety and welfare. In the several drama-filled months leading up to this decision, Beta owner Valentes Corleons fueled headlines with his claims of being linked to the Sicilian mafia and reports that he tried to bribe police. 

  • 🕺 How’s the rest of Corleons’ nightclub empire? Not great. After a New Year’s Day shooting that killed two took place inside Cabin Tap House, the club next door to Beta that is also owned by Corleons, city officials issued a temporary suspension of that liquor license as well. A bitter-sounding Corleons is now suggesting he may just sell both spaces and leave Colorado altogether. 
  • 👉 Catch up quick: Last month, in this episode of City Cast Denver, we spoke with Corleons himself as well as with Westword reporter Conor McCormick-Cavanagh, who’s been covering the Beta saga since the beginning.

🍸 Feeling sober-curious? Whether you’re participating in “Dry January,” or maybe considering the merits of permanent sobriety, Denver bartenders are here to remind you that non-alcoholic doesn’t always have to mean a club soda with lime. 5280 rounded up this list of Denver’s most delicious and creatively crafted mocktails so you can get your drink on without getting your draaank on, if you know what I mean.

🍲 How your dinner out can support Marshall Fire recovery efforts: Dozens of metro area restaurants are donating some or ALL of their profits this month to support the Marshall Fire recovery efforts. Other local restaurants, bakeries, and nonprofits are offering free meals to anyone displaced by the fire. You can see a running list of where to go and how to help here, courtesy of the Denver Post. 

🎧 LISTEN: More on ShotSpotter: Today on the podcast, we talk with Candi CdeBaca about why she was the only City Council member to vote no on ShotSpotter. The council voted 10-1 on Monday to renew Denver’s contract using the controversial gun detection technology for another five years.