It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Boulder. Monday’s MLK Jr. community celebration, presented by NAACP Boulder County, starts at 10 a.m.

For today, Jessica Mordacq covers why some restaurant owners in Boulder are successful in expansion while others aren’t. And why some owners don’t even try. One of the main factors to succeeding in our high-rent town is owning your own building — preferably having bought years ago before prices soared.

“If you don’t, you have to hustle pretty hard to be making enough to cover all your expenses, pay for your life and save,” said Dakota Soifer, who opened Cafe Aion in 2009.

Also, the city is seeking public input for what it should do with its downtown spaces. After many enjoyed a car-free West Pearl during the pandemic, the city is opening itself to comment for how it should rethink the downtown.

Treat yourself well today. I’ll see you Wednesday.

— Tim, reporter

What to know today

  • Water to fall from the sky tomorrow, maybe: Unlike tomorrow and Wednesday, today doesn’t hold much chance for precipitation. If precipitation does fall, we’ll have to see what form it takes. With temps in the 30s, it’s anyone’s guess.
  • Downtown Streets as Public Spaces: The city is seeking community input for its new Downtown Streets as Public Spaces project. During the pandemic, changes were made downtown to allow restaurants to maintain business despite state and local mandates, like allowing much more outside dining and a car-free West Pearl. When cars were allowed to return to the two-block stretch just west of the Pearl Street Mall, many in the community mourned the return to pre-pandemic norms.
    • Hearing this, city staff began exploring options to repurpose downtown’s streets in ways that will bring back the charm many enjoyed. The project, Downtown Streets as Public Spaces, is now fully underway. Per the city’s website, this spring will bring “temporary repurposing of downtown streets with programming, cultural events, public art and more.” And by the year’s end, permanent changes could be forthcoming.
    • But first, public input is needed. A questionnaire, open until Jan. 31, allows community members to give the city a sense of why they go downtown, how they get downtown, and what’s most important to them — parking close to restaurants or space for outdoor dining are a few examples.
    • Though the questionnaire deadline is the 31st of this month, at anytime during the project community members can plot locations on the city-provided interactive map to illustrate where they want to see changes.
The Downtown Streets as Public Spaces project area, per the city’s website.
  • Phase 2 of Boulder Junction to begin: Fifteen years ago, the City of Boulder approved a plan for Boulder Junction, a 160-acre area bordered by 30th and Pearl Streets, Valmont Road and Foothills Parkway. The plan, per the city, “established a vision for the area to evolve into a lively, mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented place where people will live, work, shop and access regional transportation.” Though much construction still seems to be happening in the area, the city says that phase 1 — the area west of the railroad tracks — is almost complete, setting the stage for phase 2, which will tackle the swath of land to the east.
    • Starting this winter, the city will be exploring design plans and transportation options for the area, as well as seeking community input. Right now, city staff members are looking for those from the community to make up a focus group. This group will provide their “viewpoint, expertise and experience” to “inform project progress and outcomes.”
    • With a deadline of Feb. 8, feel free to apply before then, especially if you live or work in Boulder Junction, own a property in the area, or have expertise in land use and development.
The original plan from 2007 is still available on the city’s website.
  • High-speed internet plan. What the city will do with the more than $20 million of high-speed broadband internet infrastructure installed across the city in recent years remains to be decided.
    • City councilmembers last Thursday gave city staff an initial nod of approval to pursue a public-private partnership as part of its broader goal to install “affordable high-speed fiber-based broadband internet” across the city. Under this direction, a private company would help distribute gigabit speed internet service citywide. Councilmembers also said they did not want to foreclose the possibility of pursuing a city-operated service, in which the city could provide internet services.
    • The city has already invested $20 million to install about 65 miles of fiber optic cables, creating a “fiber backbone” that could be used to bring high-speed internet to businesses and homes. The infrastructure could be used for a wide range of other city services, such as controlling traffic signals or fire and flood early detection warnings.
    • City voters in 2014 passed a ballot measure that gave the city authority to begin building out fiber-based broadband. The backbone infrastructure is planned for completion in 2023. The city council will meet with city officials again in the summer of 2023 to discuss next steps.
  • Caribou Ranch and Mud Lake slash burning: Forests are thinned to prevent wildfires from gaining uncontrollable intensity. In doing this, slash piles are sometimes formed as a place to concentrate the fuel on the landscape. Collected into piles, the wood generated by thinning projects is left until conditions allow for its safe incineration. This week could provide such conditions. With snow on the ground and more moisture expected, it’s unlikely flames from the piles would start a fire the thinning projects aimed to mitigate.
    • To keep the public away from the burnings, all of Caribou Ranch and the Caribou Ranch Link, Chickadee, and Sherwood Forest trails at Mud Lake will be closed Jan. 16-20.
  • Marshall Fire debit cards to expire: Some community members affected by the Marshall Fire received a US Bank debit card from the Disaster Recovery Center in the immediate aftermath of the fire. Many of these cards are set to expire on Jan. 31, 2023. Those with the expiring cards should make sure to use the balance before then.

Go deeper

‘Is there room for success?’ Single-location restaurants wrestle with their place in Boulder and decision to stay small

By Jessica Mordacq

January 16, 2023

Many new restaurants open in Boulder to fill a hole in cuisine options. That was true for empanada spot Rincon Argentino, as well as Dave Query’s first restaurants Zolo Southwestern Grill and Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar. 

They launched successfully, satisfying a Boulder demand for Argentinean, southwestern or seafood. 

So how did Query open five more Boulder restaurants in the last 20 years, along with concepts in Denver and Fort Collins? And what keeps 10-year-old Rincon Argentino as a stand alone, along with other popular Boulder restaurants like Cafe Aion and The Sink? 

The answer seems to come down to location, the ability to own and not lease space — which favors those who opened restaurants in Boulder years ago — and a fair amount of luck. This matters because restaurants that can thrive in Boulder will shape the local food economy and Boulderites’ dining out experiences for years to come. 

“If you don’t [own your building], you have to hustle pretty hard to be making enough to cover all your expenses, pay for your life and save,” said Dakota Soifer, who opened Cafe Aion in 2009 and leases his space. 

“You do need a few locations — or to be incredibly talented.”

Continue reading…

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BRL picks

👩‍⚖️ Take part in Boulder County commissioner town hall: On Jan. 19 at 5:30 p.m., the county commissioners will hold a virtual town hall to discuss their aspirations for 2023 and field community feedback. Those wishing to attend can register beforehand, as well as send comments they hope to have answered to with “January Town Hall” in the subject line. Send your comments before 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 17.

🔱 And Now…Featuring: For Trident Booksellers and Cafe, the third Thursday of every month of 2023 will mean a curated variety show. The first of the year, on Jan. 19, will feature poets, comedians, musicians and other performers. Starting at 6:30 p.m., the show is free and open to all.

📖 Nine Liars at the Boulder Bookstore: This Wednesday, Jan. 18, at 6:30 p.m., the Boulder Bookstore is hosting Maureen Johnson. Johnson will be talking about her new book, Nine Liars, at this free event that requires registration. The book is a teen murder mystery. “Seven suspects. Two murders. One killer still playing a deadly game.”

For more ideas on what to do this week, check out BRL’s Local Events page.


Tim Drugan is the climate and environment reporter for Boulder Reporting Lab, covering wildfires, water and other related topics. He is also the lead writer of BRL Today, our morning newsletter. Email: