It’s always a shame when a new restaurant closes, but that sad feeling compounds when you stop to think about the people directly affected: servers, line cooks, dishwashers, managers, not to mention the restaurant owner(s). Today, Westword broke the sad news that Stella’s on 16th, which we loved for its massive patio and whimsical sweet treats, closed abruptly last Thursday.

The closing isn’t much of a surprise given Stella’s large footprint and do-it-all restaurant/market concept, but the suddenness and its short-lived run—having just opened in January—is unsettling. Owner Brian Cohen did not respond to our request for comment.

An anonymous source close to the project observed questionable business decisions from the outset, ranging from exorbitant spending (including the build out, which transformed the triangular space at 1550 Wewatta into a eatery with two full kitchens, a coffee bar, and a market area, and expensive branded paper goods, bottled water, and more) to mercurial daily specials to a recent lag in paying purveyors and consultants.

That’s part of what makes this closing so sad: Talented employees, including pastry chef MJ Szymanski and executive chef Tach Tran, are out of a job; money is still owed to local businesses; and a customized restaurant-retail space in LoDo now sits empty. No matter how booming our local restaurant scene may seem, it’s as precarious an industry as any.

Denise Mickelsen
Denise Mickelsen
Denise Mickelsen is 5280’s former food editor. She oversaw all of 5280’s food-related coverage from October 2016 to March 2021.