The Rotary had just opened on Dillon Road in Louisville on December 15. It was the second outpost for the fine-casual eatery serving healthy rotisserie meats and seasonal veggie sides—but weeks later, it was already gone. The restaurant is among the many businesses destroyed by the Marshall and Middle Fork fires, blazes that burned more than 1,000 acres, decimated hundreds of homes, and caused over 30,000 people to evacuate the area on December 30.

“We literally just opened, and then burned down,” says the Rotary co-owner Scott Boyd. While the building is still technically standing, there was so much fire damage that the restaurant, and the neighboring Subway, will likely have to be torn down and rebuilt.

Just on the other side of Highway 36, in the Superior Marketplace development, Chuck E. Cheese and sushi restaurant Misaki at Superior were severely damaged, although to extent of the destruction is still unknown. Because of investigations into the cause of the fire in that area, Misaki co-owner Charlene Thai hasn’t been able to spend much time at the restaurant.

“We have very little information,” Thai says. “It has been pretty difficult for us to check on the property because the whole area was blocked. They allowed us to do a brief check of the building on Saturday. We had to park the car a mile away and walk through the burned-down residential area [to get to Misaki]. That was just heartbreaking. I just have no words for that; my heart goes out to them.”

Thai says that she’s still unsure what people can do to help Misaki get serving again, but she’s grateful for the support she’s received. “I really appreciate our community—so many people are trying to reach out to me to see if they can help. At this moment we really don’t know [what we’ll need],” she says. “We want to come back. We want to get through these hard times together, and we want to be a part of it. We just don’t know—no one has ever experienced something like this.”

Situated in the same shopping center, Texas barbecue joint Wayne’s Smoke Shack was largely spared, but owner Wayne Shelnutt’s home was not. To help Shelnutt’s family—which is expected to grow in March with the addition of a baby girl—a GoFundMe has been set up to aid their recovery.

Because the Rotary has a second restaurant in Denver, Boyd says that the best way people can assist them is by dining at that location. And even though the team had a rough opening in Louisville, he says they will do everything they can to return to the city.

“I live in Louisville, and I think it’s a perfect restaurant for here—it’s a great community,” Boyd says. “We’re insured, so we’ll be able to take care of our employees for a little while, and we’ll be able to rebuild. On that front, compared to all these people who lost their homes, I don’t feel comfortable asking people for money. I think we’re going to end up being fine.”

Of course, even if they weren’t physically damaged, there are still a slew of restaurants in Superior, Louisville, Broomfield, and Boulder that can’t open right now because of their proximity to the fires, road closures, and/or a lack of power and clean water. And considering what restaurants have endured over the past two years, every day without service hammers away at the already razor-thin line separating many from permanently closing altogether.

“We know that with restaurants, especially small restaurants, we don’t have this huge reserve of cash,” Boyd says.

But the saddest part is what comes next. Even when restaurants can reopen, their neighborhoods may still be unrecognizable, and many of the customers they served will have moved on while the cities rebuild.

How the Colorado Restaurant Community Is Helping Wildfire Victims

We’ve learned a lot over these past two years, and one of those things is how valuable restaurants are to our communities. Just as they stepped up to feed our frontline workers during the pandemic, restaurants in Boulder County and beyond are stepping up again to feed those impacted by the Marshall and Middle Fork fires. Here, the culinary pros feeding those who lost their homes weigh in on how to help.

Restaurants Revive

The Big Red F restaurant group (the Post Chicken & Beer, Jax, Centro Mexican Kitchen, and West End Tavern) partnered with World Central Kitchen, Conscious Alliance, Northwest Chamber Alliance, and Downtown Boulder Partnership to create the Restaurants Revive program, a massive effort to feed the 35,000 community members impacted by the fires. So far, more than 50 restaurants from Lyons to Denver, including Santo, Apple Blossom, and River and Woods, have signed on to provide hot meals over the coming weeks for those displaced by the fires.

Those who need help can check the list of restaurants involved in Restaurants Revive and stop in for a free meal. Or if you’re a restaurant owner or manager interested joining the relief effort, contact Dana Query at Non-restaurant-industry community members can support the program’s efforts by donating to World Central Kitchen and Conscious Alliance.

Blackbelly Food and Clothing Drive

Chef-owner Hosea Rosenberg closed his Boulder restaurant Blackbelly for normal dinner service this Monday through Wednesday to turn the dining areas into a central drop-off and pick-up site for food and clothing donations. “I personally know a lot of people who were affected, including four of our staff,” Rosenberg told 5280 via email. “We’re happy to just do our part.”

Those who need help can stop by to pick up items from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. on January 4 and 5. Or if you’re interested in contributing, you can drop off baby gear (especially diapers and wipes), pet supplies, backpacks, school supplies, new socks, food, and/or prepaid gift cards at Blackbelly on January 4 or 5, the earlier in the day the better.

More Relief Efforts

Louisville’s Moxie Bread Co. has been giving away sandwiches, lasagna, pizza, and more to first responders, people displaced by the fires, and those without electricity. Follow @moxiebreadco for updates about how to help and get help.

The Empire Lounge & Restaurant in Louisville will be giving away free soup and bread to anyone in need of a meal from January 5–9 from noon until they run out of food.

The two Boulder Walnut Cafes are feeding those who have been impacted by the fires, and in addition to the good food they’re serving, they’ve collected clothes for those who need them. Swing by if you lost your home and could use a free meal and/or winter gear to get you through the cold.

Bramble & Hare in Boulder is cooking up a nourishing free lunch of squash soup, roasted vegetables, and mashed potatoes for fire victims. Pop by from 12–3 p.m. daily.

Eat delicious Barchetta pizza through January 7, and 10 percent of all sales go to fire victim (and Barchetta employee) Dominick Imperato.

Head to Linger today, Jan. 4 from 4-9 p.m., when 10 percent of all the yummy bao buns, tacos, sweets, and to-go cocktails they sell will be donated to those affected by the fires.

Cart-Driver makes it really easy to help fire victims—just order their Cocktail for a Cause, the Fernet About It, and 100 percent of the January proceeds will go to the Boulder County Wildfire Fund. Last year, Cart-Driver’s Cocktail for a Cause raised $30,000 for nine local nonprofits.

Allyson Reedy
Allyson Reedy
Allyson Reedy is a freelance writer and ice cream fanatic living in Broomfield.