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Hanging on the outside of the forthcoming Rita’s Law—a new cafe/bar/community gathering space scheduled to open in Five Points in early April—there are two rules visible for all to see.
Rule 52: Too late for coffee? Too early for booze? Don’t stress, just mix ‘em.
Rule 80: Make a friend, buy your neighbor a drink.
“I really want people to feel that everyone is welcome here,” says Rita Price, the namesake owner of the new venture. “I want somebody who’s lived here for 80 years to sit next to someone who just got here and be able to share stories.”
For if there’s one overriding theme to Rita’s Law, it’s about bringing together old and new. Price hopes the space, on an ever-changing block of Welton Street, will attract the locals who have called the historically black neighborhood home for decades, as well as the millennials set to move into the new condos across the street.
There’s commingling in the decor and the hundred-year-old building housing Rita’s Law too, which has been given new life through extensive renovations. Even the concept is a mix: It’s a space designed to host the coffee drinker who works remotely (there are ample outlets available, even on the patio) and those looking to unwind with a drink after a traditional 9 to 5 day.
Price is a restaurant industry veteran, having worked and managed places in Hawaii and California before returning home to Colorado. Born in Denver and raised throughout the Front Range, Price always wanted a bar of her own; with her father still living in the Mile High City, the move felt natural. Propelled by a passion for shared experiences and communal revelry, Price was drawn to the history of Five Points and decided that she wanted to be part of its future.
“I’m very aware of being a white female and of possibly adding to the gentrification of the neighborhood,” Price says, emphasizing her desire to join—not change—the Five Points community. “I just want to see what I can do to help where I live.” At Rita’s Law, that will translate to keeping prices low and the vibe just right. “I can train someone to bartend or to pour coffee, but you can’t train personality,” Price says. “And I just want everyone to feel welcome.”
The space itself, formerly the Melbourne International Hotel & Hostel, has a history of receiving people: The building was once adjacent to a bus terminal, so when travelers arrived in Denver, often from Mexico, they landed at the Melbourne. For Price, the location felt right, so she teamed up with Sprung Construction (whose projects include the Ramble Hotel) to build out the cafe. The look-and-feel incorporates historic elements and repurposed materials, such as wood paneling for the bar from the Zang Mansion and an old billboard that is now part of the patio’s fencing. Even the kitchen—located outside in a renovated short school bus—fits the theme. Price’s favorite aspect, however, is the bathrooms, one plastered with old Tin Tin comics and the other wallpapered with the vintage jazz records, many by artists who performed on Welton Street.
The short bus will serve pasta- and grain-based bowls with global flavors, and there will be pastries and other grab-and-go items from Olive and Finch available. The coffee will come courtesy of local Huckleberry Roasters and there will be draft beer from neighboring Woods Boss Brewing Company. Live music? Sure. On-tap kombucha? Definitely. Summertime movie screenings on the patio near an outdoor fire pit? It’s all part of the plan. Price promises there will also be unpretentious cocktails, and eventually, she hopes, community events that feel anything but contrived.
2209 Welton St.