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Neighborhood icon Bonnie Brae Tavern closes after 88 years

Saturday marked the end of an era for a major staple in Denver's Bonnie Brae neighborhood.  After 88 years in business, the Bonnie Brae Tavern closed its doors for the final time.

"It's almost like it's not real to me yet," said Michael Dire, who owns the bar with his cousin Rick. "I can't say it's always been fun or easy, but I'm proud of the fact that we were able to continue my grandparents' legacy."

That legacy began in 1934 with Carl and Sue Dire. Now two generations of Dire family members later, the business is a neighborhood mainstay, revered for its pizza as much as family atmosphere.

"We just kept it true to what my grandfather's vision was," Dire said.

That's what makes closing so hard for Michael and his family. They made the tough decision earlier this year because of soaring property taxes, declining business, and a changing restaurant landscape in the city, all of which were made even worse by the pandemic, he said.

"COVID was the nail in the coffin," Dire said. "It wasn't something we wanted to do, but just out of necessity we had to do it. I grieve every day about it."

For Terry Mendenhall and her family, the tavern has been a gathering place across five generations. On Saturday, three of those generations came to say goodbye.

"If you had a good day, you came here to celebrate, and if you had a bad day you went to come here and you just felt better," Mendenhall said.

Now they and many others will cherish those memories for years to come, as their neighborhood pillar goes away for good.

"I was hoping they'd make it 90 years," she said. "Everything changes. It's sad to me. It's very sad."

Alpine Investments bought the building will take over at the end of July. According to Business Den, they plan to build an apartment complex with retail stores.  

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