After working as a general manager at Stoney’s Bar and Grill for two years, Eric Riggs was offered the opportunity to own his own bar and restaurant.
Stoney’s owners Riggs and Stoney Jesseff bought Freshcraft at 1530 Blake St in downtown Denver in 2019, just five months before the pandemic.
“I had all these plans and dreams to turn things around. But every time I took a step forward, something came and pushed me three steps back,” Riggs said. “It put pressure on my life and relationships.”
After a few rough years, Riggs is shutting down Freshcraft on May 29. At the end of the month his lease expired and instead of waiting for things to change, he decided to walk away.
“Many factors went into this decision,” Riggs said. “Downtown hasn’t picked up the way I thought it was going, and Blake Street has been completely closed this month due to new construction on the 16th Street Mall. May has been one of my worst months. There has been one. My decision was made before that, but it hastened my decision. The light at the end of the tunnel has yet to show itself.”
Freshcraft has been open downtown since 2011, serving American comfort food and a ready-made selection of beers and cocktails.
Riggs said that Jessefe offered him the opportunity to buy the 3,000-square-foot restaurant. Riggs bought most of the business for a little over $100,000, and Jessef paid about $50,000.
During the pandemic, business was down 60 percent, Riggs said. Sales increased 20 percent over the past few months, but went back down once construction began on 16th Street Mall.
“The only people who come here now are those who know us,” he said. “There is no foot traffic now. It would have been nice if this project would have started when our businesses were closed during the pandemic. ,
Riggs considered moving on instead of shutting down Freshcraft. But he said that nothing was found in his search.
“I’ve been digging myself out of a hole with my lease this whole time, so it’s going to be hard to keep it in another 10 years and think it’ll be better at some other location,” he said.
Riggs said it only has five employees right now and is working a 70-hour week in the kitchen and bartending.
“Maybe I can return to the industry when I can be the operator I wanted to be, which I turned out to be, a general manager working in the kitchen,” he said.
Riggs, 39, said he wants to go back to school.
“As someone who was the general manager for so long, the security of working for someone else feels good for once,” he said.
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