Owl Barbecue quickly rose to cult status around Denver after it opened on Larimer Street in 2019. But less than three years after the pandemic—and two of them—the Texas-style smoked meat shop is closing its doors.
OvalBear will open for two more meal services at 2826 Larimer St., sold out this Saturday and Sunday, January 22-23 at 11am. After that, owner and pitmaster Carl Fallenius has no plans to continue cooking for the Denverites.
“I’m deeply questioning whether I want to be in the service industry, or cook at all,” Fallenius told The Denver Post. “I really don’t love the industry that much, and I’m trying to fight it.”
In the case of restaurants, and especially barbecue culture, Fallenius goes against industry norms. At Ovalbear, they source meats from ethical (non-factory farmed) producers and use compostable serving ware in an effort to reduce the restaurant’s environmental impacts.
But as food and material costs rose during the pandemic, practices that were once central to their business became less feasible.
“We were surprisingly sustainable for a barbecue place in terms of environmental impact,” he said. “But in terms of financial longevity… when the only way to really do business is with the cheapest way to do it… it gets tough.”
Fallenius’ business grew as a result of loan closures, followed by increased costs. With the business less than a year into the pre-pandemic, it didn’t have much financial runway to deal with. Still, Owlbear was a success by many standards, all its reputation as the top Texas-style barbecue spot in Colorado.
“It was a really difficult decision, and it’s not necessarily going to be an easy one,” said Fallenius. “I’m very proud of what we accomplished with Ovalbear, but I have to figure that out with my life. How to proceed.”
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