A few years ago, it was apparent that the Bonnie Brae Tavern was likely to be demolished and redeveloped. Well, sadly, that article was prescient and the famous restaurant’s time has come.
The Bonnie Brae Tavern, 740 South University Avenue, is closing this month. The throwback tavern and pizza shop, across from the Campus Lounge, will be meeting the wrecking ball. The 88-year-old institution will close June 25. New buyers, Churchill Bunn and Rhys Duggan, purchased the property for $4.5 million with plans to build a three-story apartment complex.
The current owners, Ricky Dire and his cousin Michael — and whose grandparents founded it in 1934 sold the business, agreed to the sale after years of operation in the Bonnie Brae neighborhood. Ricky Dire marked 44 years working at the restaurant this summer. Michael Dire has been working there 40 years. In addition to the 740 S. University Blvd. building, home to the tavern and dry cleaners, the real estate deal also involved the Wish Gifts building at 750 S. University Blvd. and the surrounding parking spaces.
LetsGoDU readers may remember the tavern’s old neighborhood feel with its regulars at the bar, excellent thin crust pizza and photographs of old University Boulevard when it was a still a dirt road.
Carl and Sue Dire opened the Bonnie Brae Tavern at its current location in the middle of the Great Depression. The business serves lunch and dinner, with a menu featuring burgers, salads and sandwiches, as well as Mexican food and made-to-order pizzas which became a restaurant specialty.
In 2019, the Dires’ application to gain approval for a 5-year redevelopment window for their site was approved by the Denver Zoning Board. With old electrical and plumbing, mandatory ADA upgrades, COVID-19 restrictions over the last two years, and spiking restaurant operating costs, the Dires decided to exit the business for a tidy profit.
Patrons have just two weeks to visit the Bonnie Brae tavern before it closes for good. But don’t plan on going on a Monday – they are closed.