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After years of controversy, Tom's Diner to reopen in less than a month as Tom's Starlight cocktail lounge

New design will include Palm Springs-style indoor/outdoor cocktail lounge, fire pits, waterfall and cabanas
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Posted at 7:07 AM, Aug 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-10 09:07:43-04

DENVER — Another iconic restaurant in the Denver metro is announcing plans to reopen.

Tom’s Diner closed in March 2020 when the pandemic hit. But even before that, the owner was looking to sell and retire.

Now, he’s back with a new partner and taking the space in a different direction.

“I’ve been here 22 years, I did my time,” said owner Tom Messina. “Let me take the money and run. That was my attitude. But this opportunity came along and this is more fun.”

With its retro roofline and iconic bar, Tom’s on Colfax is now ready for a redo.

“The stars aligned,” Messina said. “GBX and I were able to come to an agreement and move this property forward.”

After years of controversy, Tom's Diner to reopen in less than a month as Tom's Starlight cocktail lounge

The new space will resemble a Palm Springs-style indoor/outdoor cocktail lounge.

“It’s outside the box,” Messina said. “But it’s keeping true to the design, the Googie-design. And that kind of steered us into the Palm Springs outdoor area with the cabanas and fire pits, 30 bar stoles, cocktail seating, flower beds, a waterfall.”

Inside, Messina plans to refinish the terrazzo floor and keep the retro countertops.

What might make the space most unique is the outdoor space. They eliminated the 40 parking spots in the back in favor of cabanas along the back wall and cocktail tables and lounge areas in the center of the space.

“Most people in Cap Hill just hop in an Uber and head to RiNo,” Messina said. “This will give them the option to stay in their neighborhood.”

Messina says getting here was no easy task. You’ll recall he wanted to sell the building to a developer and move on a few years ago – which made news when a neighborhood group fought the sale, arguing the building should be preserved under the city’s landmark designation.

That prompted Messina to fight even harder for the diner’s demolition.

“I did, but that was short-sighted,” Messina said. “You tell someone what they can’t do, you get your back up and you want to say, ‘Well, this is what I want to do and stay out of my business.’ But, that being said, I’m happy that we saved it.”

They’ll host a job fair at Tom’s next Sunday and Monday, August 14 and 15 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

“We’re looking for wait staff, bartenders, management, back of the house, front of the house,” Messina said.

If all goes well – they’re shooting for a Labor Day weekend opening.

“The end result is fabulous and I couldn’t be happier,” Messina said. “I mean, at this stage of my life, I want to just have fun. I’m glad we’re saving the building.”

After all, vintage never goes out of fashion.

“Come in and check the place out,” Messina said. “You’ll be pleasantly surprised with what we’ve done. We preserved it and moved it forward at the same time.”

Messina’s new ownership partner is GBX Group, based out of Cleveland, Ohio which specializes in preserving historic real estate in urban areas.

Messina says they will initially open for dinner only but hope to expand soon with brunch service in the near future.