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Recent studies show food allergies are rising in both children and adults. In 2021 the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics found that food allergies in children were up about 6%. 

With back-to-school starting, many parents of children with food allergies might have extra anxiety about what their child eats at school.  Nona Dasenbrook, a Denver Public Schools registered dietician, handles special diets for students.  She says “In compliance with USDA’s policy,  DPS provides modified meals for students with a documented disability and requires a completed meal modification form to be kept current and on file while the student attends DPS.  Once a completed form is received for a disability, I create a menu that follows our cycle menu and eliminates the listed allergen(s). We provide training to our kitchen staff on preventing cross-contact and contamination to keep those meals safe.”

The most common food allergy triggers are milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, and tree nuts.  On April 23, 2021, the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research Act (FASTER) added sesame seeds as a 9th major food allergen.  Symptoms can appear within minutes or sometimes hours, causing reactions including hives, itching in the mouth, trouble breathing, swelling, and stomach pain. Food allergies can also cause Anaphylaxis which is a severe life-threatening allergic reaction.

Denver’s restaurant industry is also responding to people who have food allergies and find it difficult to eat out.  Jennifer Peters is the owner of Just Be Kitchen.  She comes from an athletic background and started an anti-inflammatory diet to help her stay healthy and fit. But she also wanted to enjoy food.

“I was tired of, quote unquote, healthy food being really about sacrifice. So, like, if I wanted to eat healthy, then it was like a kale, quinoa salad and, you know, a piece of protein. And I want to eat pizza, burritos, chicken, and dumplings, you know, biscuits and gravy and I believe that those things can be made in a wholesome manner,” Jennifer said.

Just BE Kitchen has two locations, one in LoHi and another in Greenwood Village.  It’s a restaurant that brings comfort-style food that is both allergy friendly and diabetic-friendly.  Just Be Kitchen has an allergy hub and menu that has details about the ingredients in each dish so customers can feel safe as they enjoy food.  Jennifer wants people to eat well and walk away from her restaurant satisfied.  

“So that people don’t feel like there’s a trade-off between either eating mindfully, and healthy and anti-inflammatory, or for the people that do have to really watch what they’re eating like celiac and other people with autoimmune diseases, that we’re not having to sacrifice,” she said.  “Every single week, I get messages or people stopping me in the store. And it never gets old.”

Deby’s Gluten Free is located in Denver, and is a 100% dedicated gluten-free, peanut-free grocery store. It offers a variety of gluten-free baked goods, as well as take and bake meals and cake mix so clients can cook at home. Monica Poole, the owner of the bakery started it in 2005.  Her family struggles with celiac disease and gluten intolerance. She wanted to make it easier to live gluten-free.

“Customers come in and look around and start crying. Because we have so much variety. I was just doing what I wanted. It’s like well, if I had a store and I was going to shop there, this is what I want. I’d want to be able to come in and get all the things that I want at a regular store that isn’t gluten-free. I can get them here and they’ll be gluten-free,” says Monica.  

Other places that have allergy friendly menus in the Denver area include Watercourse foods, Vital Root, River and Roads Coffee, and Holidaily Brewing Company that offers gluten free beer and is located in Golden and next to Just Be Kitchen in the Greenwood Village Plaza..  

Recent studies show food allergies are rising

It’s our birthday!  Bucket List Community Cafe is four years old.  This started as a blog about North Denver.  The neighborhoods, the history and culture, the small businesses, the people and the diversity that makes our city unique.  Then during Covid we were a place to share what was going on in our neighborhoods and help each other navigate the crisis we all faced.  We continued to evolve into an important part of the news ecosystem of Colorado, and you have supported our growth.

So thank you.  Thank you for making this birthday possible.  Thank you for helping us mentor the next generation of aspiring journalists.  We have supported over 30 to date from CU Boulder and MSU Denver who have been part of our team.  Thank you for saying hello to us at events.  Thanks for putting our Bucket List Community Cafe magnets on your refrigerators and subscribing to our free weekly newsletter. And thanks especially for contributing to us.  We are 100% community supported. 

Bucket List Community Cafe complements the work of others in local journalism by offering hyperlocal neighborly news.  And if you wonder why we have a quirky name it’s because we have a unique niche at the intersection of community and journalism.  We are building community by sharing our stories.  Instead of a brick and mortar cafe where you go to connect with your community, we are doing it online.  We appreciate you dropping in. 

We want to hear what matters to you.  Tell us your stories, share what’s happening in your neighborhoods.  Let us know what you want from community journalism.  Four years ago when Bucket List Community Cafe started we never imagined that we could be a part of our community’s conversation and a positive, solution oriented place to get news.  So happy birthday to us.  On this occasion, we celebrate all of you who support community journalism.

It’s our birthday!  Bucket List Community Cafe

Four years ago, Denver tattooist AJ McGuire hit a turning point in his career. After several hours-long sessions breaking up line work, color and touch-ups, he had just finished tattooing a half-sleeve on a client. It was a beautiful tribute to Colorado with white-capped mountains, a glowing orange sunset and a deep blue river complete with a jumping trout. 

“I don’t know what it was, but it kind of made me feel like, ‘Okay, I can do this. This is what I want to do,’” McGuire said. “That was the one tattoo that gave me the confidence to realize I’m there. I figured out how to draw things in a way that translates well in the tattoos but are still authentic to my style of art. Right after that, the trout stuff really started to blow up.”

McGuire is one of only a handful of tattooists who specialize in fly fishing body adornments. For the last several years, he’s honed his craft working out of his shop on Santa Fe and 8th called Dead Drift Tattoo—which itself is a fly fishing reference to letting the river current control the movement of a fly. Anglers and admirers alike travel from across the country, even the world, to get tattooed by him. By this point, one doesn’t have to look far within the fly fishing community in Denver to spot one of McGuire’s pieces. 

“I don’t know if I would say I’m majorly popular, but within a specific group of people I’m pretty well known,” McGuire said. “Denver’s such a big tattoo scene that it’s hard to stand out with so many other good artists around. It seems like no matter what you do, you just can’t get a leg up. But that’s what it took for me, finding that niche.”

That niche was born from fusing a childhood interest in art and a hobby-turned-obsession. McGuire said he’s been drawing for as long as he remembers, and was a “total art nerd” in school. He received a degree in drawing and printmaking back in his home state of New York. But none of the traditional pathways for art majors, like teaching or illustrating, particularly interested him. So he packed up his bags, moved to Colorado, and picked up a fly rod and a tattoo machine. Now, any day of the week, when McGuire isn’t in the shop or at home with his wife Robbi and their daughter Josie, he’s out on the water. 

“Honestly, I combined the two pretty fast,” McGuire said. “Because the fish just have such beautiful patterns, they’re like a little work of art in and of themselves. So it was kind of a natural progression. I think there’s a lot of similarities between fly fishing and tattooing. They’re both super intricate things, they both take a lot of skill, they both take a lot of fine-tuning practice and trying to better yourself. You’re gonna have bad days in both where instead of being upset, you have to just learn from it and try to do better next time. There are a variety of factors out of your control.”

McGuire announced on Instagram earlier this year that he would be opening his books to take clients on a “Cast and Blast,” which involves two back-to-back days of fishing and tattooing. The artist drew inspiration from his former art professor, an Umpqua-sponsored fly fishing guide in Western New York, who would take clients out on the river and do an oil painting of their best catch. 

McGuire’s offer works similarly, with a tattoo in lieu of a painting. However, McGuire is not a registered guide and therefore doesn’t charge for taking clients out for the day of fishing. Because of his extensive knowledge of both excellent fishing spots and what flies work best for them, McGuire said he feels confident in putting his tattoo clients onto fish. 

“I fish so much, so I feel like I know what spots are going to be productive,” McGuire said. “I also feel like for flies, I’m pretty dialed in on what to use. I’m definitely not a guide but I feel like it could be a job that I would have if I wasn’t a tattoo artist.”

Katie Treloar, a Castle Rock resident, and one of McGuire’s first Cast and Blast clients along with her husband Chris, said fishing with the tattooist was “an amazing experience.” She said it was challenging because it was her first time fishing a high-alpine lake—among McGuire’s favorite spots—and especially windy. Treloar joked that there was a moment she was worried she might have to get a tattoo of the sandwich she ate for lunch that day instead of a trout. But in the last hour of their outing, she caught a huge cutthroat. 

“AJ’s passion and love for fly fishing is contagious,” Treloar said. “Guided trips tend to be more of a teacher and student relationship whereas fishing with AJ was like fishing with a long-time friend. I think this experience is nothing short of brilliant. It’s unique and fun and has left my husband and me with a lifelong reminder of the special day that we got to spend on the water with AJ.”

Another Cast and Blast client from Evergreen, Steven Anderson, was getting a tattoo of his big cutthroat from the day before. He’s been fishing “seriously” for the last five years and this is his second fish tattoo from McGuire. 

“[The fish tattoos] just represent my passion for fly fishing,” Anderson said. “I just love the aesthetic of fish, they’re absolutely beautiful.”

Both Anderson and Treloar said they feel fortunate to have been able to participate in the Cast and Blast, as spots filled up quickly—something that happens often these days as McGuire’s popularity rises. He said he feels his niche would be successful wherever he lived because fly fishing is a growing sport, but something about it feels uniquely Colorado. Regardless, he said he feels lucky he gets to merge two of his passions when he comes to work every day. 

“I get to make art every day, talk about fishing every day and work with a bunch of people I really like,” McGuire said. “It’s a great job. I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”

Four years ago, Denver tattooist AJ McGuire

Decades of hard work paid off for Denver’s Chicano community on July 24 when the City Council voted unanimously to make La Raza Park in the Northside a historical cultural district.

“Now we have a third cultural historic district in Denver, which is strange to me,” said District 1 Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval. “Ninety-seven percent of the historic districts or landmark structures that come through City Council are predominantly white men and that’s not Denver’s history.”

According to Sandoval, the history of this park dates back to 1906, when it became “one of the first parks in Northwest Denver.”  It was originally called Navajo Park. In 1931, the park was renamed Columbus Park, honoring Sunnyside’s Italian American population. As the community demographics changed from Italian American to Chicano, people started calling for the park name to change too. La Raza means “the people” in Spanish. The term encompasses the experience and identity of the Chicano community and became a revolutionary call in the 1970s. 

Arturo Rodriguez, a member of Denver’s La Raza Park Legacy Preservation Project, said that individuals started calling the area La Raza Park far before the official name change in 2020 because they did not believe Christopher Columbus was a hero due to how he mistreated the Indigenous people.

“We believe we were right, that Columbus was not a hero and that he should not be recognized,” Rodriguez said. 

Rodriguez’s goal is to now amend the La Raza Park application to become a cultural historic district to include Native American history. He said it’s important to acknowledge the park stands on Native land as the City Council does.  

“Before every public meeting, they acknowledge that we are on Native land and we acknowledge the first peoples,” Rodriguez said. 

Annual events held at the park include live performances from Grupo Tlaloc, an Aztec dance group that performs in celebration of the Summer Solstice. Additionally, other popular events are Dia De Los Muertos, La Raza Park Day and Cruise—“a big celebration with lowriders”—and the Chicano Pride Ride.

Diane Medina, who has lived directly across the street from La Raza Park for more than 40 years, says it has been a part of her whole life. The park has been through significant changes throughout the decades and she has witnessed how politics, community members and time have transformed it. She described the park as a place where people gather to socialize and celebrate the Chicano community. It’s now often buzzing with people playing music, eating and connecting until closing time at 11 p.m. 

It hasn’t always been a joyous scene at the park. Medina said in the past tensions rose between police and community members. In 1970, Chicano community activists took over the park and staged “splash-ins” at the park’s former pool. 

“In 1970, we spray painted the walls at the swimming pool and we wrote the name ‘La Raza Park,’” Rodriguez said. “We did not know the history of the park completely—we did not know that Navajo Park was the name until 1930 or probably we would have gone back to rename it Navajo Park.”

By 1971, the Chicano movement effectively controlled the park. Every year after, there would be “grand opening” events, celebrating the takeover of the pool with live music, dancers and speakers. These grand openings caused tension between the community members and the police, which “started having real strong arm kind of tactics,” according to Medina. 

During one of the annual grand openings, Medina said officers came marching in and tear-gassed the park while kids were still playing on the playground. 

“Then they just started swinging and arresting people,” Medina said. “It was just a mess.” 

The pool was later filled in and covered up without public notice. Now, a 45-foot tall Kiosko modeled to look like Mayan and Aztec pyramids stands as one of the park’s most recognizable features. Denver artist David Ocelotl Garcia painted murals on the ceiling in 2016, titled “El Viaje.” As part of the historical cultural landmark designation, the Kiokso will receive regular inspections and the murals and other art will be protected. 

La Raza Park’s resiliency throughout the decades has allowed individuals to have a place to celebrate culture, community and form a sense of pride in identity. 

“It highlighted an era of Denver that’s probably not talked about,” Sandoval said. “We had segregation. We had pools for whites only, and colored water fountains and segregated schools and that’s not in mainstream media. And so this story tells a different story of a lived experience for people of color.”

Decades of hard work paid off for

Colfax Avenue has been a defining feature of Denver since the city’s inception. Touted as the longest commercial street in America, Colfax remains the starting point and lifeline for many local businesses.  

Such is the case for Charlie Puma, who opened Enzo’s End Pizzeria on East Colfax back in 1996. Recognized by Westword as serving “Denver’s best thin pizza,” Enzo’s has established a steady business over the past two decades. However, with Denver’s latest transportation development, the East Colfax Bus Rapid Transit System, going up right outside his doors, Puma fears for the future. 

“I think the BRT is going to be an absolute disaster for the neighborhood,” Puma said. “For the pizza delivery business and the restaurants that depend on people coming to sit down and dine in, the traffic is going to be bad for years.”

Starting in 2024, construction for the East Colfax Bus Rapid Transit System will begin, complete with new buses, stations and lanes that will be up and running by 2027. The updated route will run from Denver Union Station out to the I-225 light rail station in Aurora, costing an estimated $300 million. Both the cost and construction time can be largely attributed to the injection of center-running bus lanes between Broadway and Yosemite, making it the project’s most notable and controversial feature. 

“The City is moving forward with Bus Rapid Transit on Colfax because doing nothing is not an option,” the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure said on its website. “Over the next 20 years, the corridor is expected to experience 25% growth in the number of travelers, 67% growth in employment and 25% growth in population.” 

According to the DOTI Transportation Report, the benefits of center-running lanes include faster and more reliable travel times, fewer collisions, and greater access to sidewalks. However, it will also permanently eliminate 300 parking spaces in this area and reduce the four general traffic lanes down to two, putting more pressure on surrounding residential streets, particularly during the three-year construction period. 

“All of these restaurants and businesses get multiple deliveries every day and I don’t know where they are going to go,” Puma said. “They are going to take away the parking and the loading zones, and heavy truck traffic will have to go to the side streets.”

The DOTI predicts that the reduction of lanes will balance out once the BRT is in place by increasing bus ridership and decreasing travel times by 15 to 30 minutes for these commuters.  However, the lack of information on traffic diversions in the current reports has left Colfax businesses and neighbors anticipating chaos in the days to come. 

“At the meetings whenever you express your concern it’s just the same answer of ‘That’s a great question, we will look into that,’” Puma said. “I think all business owners are feeling and expressing the same thing but no one’s listening.”

The City claims that the decision for a center-running lane was based on years of analysis and community input, including 40 meetings and a public survey. However, registered neighborhood organizations such as Congress Park Neighbors are continuing to press city officials for more.

“I have followed and been involved with this project over the last 11 years and am sadly disappointed with how this project has engaged with the community,” said Myles Tangalin, a volunteer board member for Congress Park Neighbors. “I have repeatedly requested information on the future community engagement, station locations and traffic design calculations for the [Federal Transit Administration], to bring to our community, but have only been met with silence.” 

Although transportation updates for a rapidly growing city like Denver are always painful, many residents in the area believe the Colfax BRT project is unjustified as it stands now. 

“It just seems to me that the benefits of a center-running bus lane are not worth the cost in terms of neighborhood construction and small-business disruption,” said Judith Cohen, a Congress Park resident for 19 years. “I just want them to take another look before building something that will be here forever.” 

Although community workshops have ended for the East Colfax BRT, you can participate in the conversation by submitting questions to the DOTI website or attending the next Congress Park Neighbors Meeting on August 16th from 7-8:30 p.m.

Colfax Avenue has been a defining feature

With inflation on the rise, it’s become even more expensive to own a pet. Many Denver pet owners are struggling to find a way to finance their pets’ needs. But the Colorado Pet Pantry is stepping in to bridge that gap. 

“We want to give people the option and ability to be able to keep their pets if that is what their family wants to do,” said Colorado Pet Pantry Founder and Executive Director Eileen Lambert. “If the pet is already in a good living situation, it’s always good not to break that tie.”

According to Lambert, the number of people needing assistance is up from last year when over 33,000 families received support. That adds up to about 115,000 dogs and cats and comes out to about 7 million meals for 2022. 

This year, the need for donations has been especially high. Inflation has played a large role in that, but a significant cut back on federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits has increased the number of families needing help.

“Although you can’t buy pet food with food stamps, people have less overall resources,” Lambert said. “If people have less food stamps, they need to use more of their own financial resources to feed the humans in the family. If we can get more donations, we can help people with their pet food so that families can have money for other things.”

The cost of pet food rose 14.4% from 2022, according to the consumer price index, which is 6% higher than inflation on groceries. That means pet owners could be spending hundreds of dollars more a year on pet food alone. And with the never-ending rise in housing and other living costs, it could lead to the difficult decision to surrender a beloved friend. Denver shelters have seen an alarming 37% increase in pets surrendered, overwhelming their resources.

Many organizations that offer pet food assistance require owners to be on assistance. But Lambert said the pet pantry is there to help anyone who “raises their hand and says they need help.” The Colorado Pet Pantry’s website has an event calendar with all of their pet food banks. All families need to do is show up with an ID to one of the 103 monthly events to receive help once every two months.

“It’s one month on one month off,” Lambert said. “We’re not meant to cover all of their pet food means. We’re meant to be supplementary.”

Most of the stock of pet food handed out at Colorado Pet Pantry’s events is acquired through donations. Lambert said they need donations now more than ever.  

“We couldn’t do this without donations. The only reason that what we do is viable and sustainable is because of the donations,” Lambert said. “We are always trying to keep up with the need for [donations] because we are always busier than the month before. People are always having struggles.”

Those interested in helping the Colorado Pet Pantry with donation efforts can donate financially through their website. Families who have extra pet food laying around their house can donate by bringing spare food to one of their donation drop-off locations. The organization is also hosting an event for their tenth birthday and national dog day on August 26th, which they hope will help with their donation efforts.

“The fact that we’re able to keep pets in their loving homes is a win-win-win. It’s a win for the family. It’s a win for the pets, and it’s a win for the animal shelters,” Lambert said. “And it costs us $5 to feed a pet for a month, and we’re able to do so much good with just that $5.”

With inflation on the rise, it’s become

John Fielder stands as Colorado’s most influential landscape and nature photographer, with his career spanning over the last four decades. Fielder has captured breathtaking and unique scenic views from all over the state. On July 22, the History Colorado Center proudly unveiled its latest exhibit, “REVEALED: John Fielder’s Favorite Place.”

This month on the Bucket List Community Cafe podcast, we sat down with Luke Perkins, History Colorado’s manager of communications and public relations, to gain insight into what sets John Fielder apart from the rest, and what Denverites can learn from his photos.

Listen now on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

The exhibit’s grand opening was nothing short of a success, drawing in a crowd of around 450 individuals, including Colorado Governor Jared Polis, and of course, John Fielder himself.

“John Fielder has a very avid following, a bunch of people that are really interested in and invested in his photography and his work as a conservationist,” Perkins said. “It was an incredibly successful opening for us.”

Fielder was inspired by great landscape photographers like William Henry Jackson, Eliot Porter, Ansel Adams and Enos Mills. Not only did he study their work but he also believed the land belongs to future generations and we need to conserve it.  

In an interview with History Colorado he said “if we’re going to make the appropriate decisions to arrest this alarming speed of change in the landscape and the loss of biodiversity on Earth we need to learn from the past, and maybe my photos can be the basis, the foundation for judging just how dramatic the change is, maybe how even more dramatic and alarming it will be in the future.” 

The collaboration between Fielder and History Colorado traces back to the end of 2022 when both sides hoped to share some of Fielder’s work. Fielder initially donated around 5,000 photos and the donation has since grown to over 7,300 photos.

The exhibit focuses specifically on a journey that Fielder took to Colorado’s Needle Mountains in August 2005 and immerses visitors in Fielder’s planning, preparation, gear and amazing photos from that trip.

John Fielder’s passion for photography and successful long-lasting career prompted him to allow anyone to view all 7,300 photos for free through History Colorado’s website. Although, if people are interested in high-resolution copies of Fielder’s photos you must connect with the Stephen H. Hart Research Center and pay a nominal access fee ($17 for a 300 dpi image) for the images you want.

“I believe we have photographs from 62 of the 64 different counties in Colorado. These are photographs of wildflowers—they are photographs of our national parks, our state parks, of different ranches and farms around the state,” Perkins said. “They really do span the entirety of the centennial state. And, kind of tap into John’s claim of having seen all 104,000 square miles of Colorado.”

Perkins hopes visitors of “REVEALED: John Fielder’s Favorite Place” can reflect on engaging in Colorado’s public lands and think about how Colorado’s outdoors is connected to everything we do. Luke truly wants visitors to think about what makes Colorado special to them.

For those eager to witness “REVEALED: John Fielder’s Favorite Place,” the exhibit will be available at the History Colorado Center until February 2024. Plus, to ensure that Fielder’s legacy lives on, History Colorado has dedicated its second-floor mezzanine to serve as a rotating gallery of Fielder’s work for the next five years.

John Fielder stands as Colorado's most influential

Zuri Lioness was skeptical about writing as a profession. But her sophomore-year English teacher encouraged her to follow her passion because of her rich imagination. That class was where Lioness’ future as a children’s book author was born. 

“I don’t know, we’ll see where life takes me,” thought Lioness’ 10th-grade self. 

Fast forward 10 years, Lioness is now the author of her first children’s book “Accomplish!” which she published in spring 2023. The book follows a young girl named Makenna, an avid explorer determined to let nothing get in her way of doing what she wants to do. 

As a woman of color, Lioness drew inspiration for her book from her own childhood and what she used to read. Lioness wanted to write something which inspired children to understand their limitless potential, rather than be restricted by certain ideas.

“Makenna does all sorts of things: skiing, scuba diving, climbing. I want to show all kids there are many things you can do and countless places to go along the way. Growing up, I didn’t have many books like that,” Lioness said. 

Lioness started writing “Accomplish!” when she was pregnant with her now two-year-old son. She wanted her son to be part of a generation that could be more considerate of everyone’s different upbringings and backgrounds. 

Nicole Sullivan, owner of The Bookies Bookstore in Glendale, Colorado, has noticed an increase in diverse children’s books in recent years. Throughout her store, there are sections catering to different languages, cultures, and younger children’s books to meet the various desires of customers.  

“We have absolutely seen an uptick in books with diverse characters and authors, and we hope to see more in the future,” Sullivan stated. 

According to a report from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, data from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center has determined a rise in diverse children’s books in recent years. The report states that 46% of the books the center documented in 2022 had “significant” BIPOC content, and 39% had at least one primary character who is BIPOC. 

Lioness encourages her fellow parents and caregivers of young children to think about this when they are getting books for their kids. 

“I think every day when you go outside, you see someone who either looks like you or doesn’t,” Lioness explained. “It’s important to understand other people’s backgrounds because you want to be able to communicate with them in a good way. I want my son to have things to read which could help him if he encounters a scenario like this in his life.”

Lioness used the simple analogy of how people may call the sport of soccer “football” in other parts of the world to help describe the scenarios she referenced. She says there are a lot of commonalities among all groups of people, yet everyone expresses things in various ways. The author believes the more information people gather from each other, the better it will be for society. 

“We should be able to learn about each other and different places because there is only one life that we know of, so why not explore and learn things about other people to be better connected together,” Lioness stated. 

An adherent of her own advice, Lioness worked with Russian illustrator Natalia Vazhdaeva for the vibrant artwork throughout the book. Even though she does not speak English, Vazhdaeva developed illustrations that fit what Lioness had envisioned for the book all along. 

“It’s incredible to have that connection with someone across the world with an obstacle like a language barrier, but still being able to match the vision,” Lioness said. 

Going forward, Lioness plans to write more children’s books. She said one benefit of books is they last a lifetime, and she hopes children can have words to hold on to as they move into the future.

Lioness also stays inspired by the sentiments of her late father, Gerald, who passed away in 2020. 

“My father always told me that it is important for everyone to know that their life has a purpose and he would always want me to make that the forefront of my writing,” Lioness said.

Zuri Lioness was skeptical about writing as

Living in Denver in 2023 has its fair share of annoyances. The constant traffic, rising crime rates, and increasing temperatures are enough to get on any Denverite’s nerves. However, many who live in the metro area took to Reddit last week to voice their displeasure with a more unexpected topic: the dearth of food available after normal dinner hours.

In the comments of a post asking what the drawbacks are to living in Denver, a Reddit user pointed out that it is weirdly hard to find food past 9 p.m. in the city. This post resonated with many, as nearly 1,400 other users agreed and shared their concerns. 

“Denver is a happy hour city,” commented Reddit user detroittobuffalo. “Not much going on in the morning, because folks are driving to their outdoor activity, and not much going on at night, because folks are sleeping early in preparation. It’s an odd phenomenon when you first move here.”

In the end, it wasn’t traffic or crime that most residents voiced their rancor over, but instead, what seems to be a late-night food drought.

“It’s really difficult to find food [in Denver] after 9 p.m. because there’s really only a couple of places that stay open late,” said Denver resident Sam Evins, who lives near the University of Denver. 

For those looking for food downtown at night, fast food chains like McDonald’s and Taco Bell have proven to be some of the only options for those living in the area.

“As someone who doesn’t eat fast food, it’s pretty much only Mediterranean food for me,” Evins said. “And you can’t eat Mediterranean food every night, which makes it difficult. There’s a definite lack of variety.”  

Denverites who don’t want a fast food burger but are instead looking for a nicer, sit-down restaurant will likely struggle to find a business that stays open and serves food late-night.

The decline of the 24-hour diner has never been more apparent. Post-COVID, spots like Pete’s Kitchen on Colfax—which had offered up quality full-plate meals all day, every day since its opening in 1962—now closes early on weekdays. Tom’s Diner, which shut down for renovation in March 2020, has rebranded from a 24/7 food institution to Tom’s Starlight, a mid-century modern cocktail lounge

Denver food trucks noticed the lack of options in the city, and have begun to serve the city’s after-hours food needs. However, these food trucks really only cater to the bar-going crowd and are not viable options for those just seeking a late-night meal.

“The food trucks only really camp out near the bars and clubs, which is where they know they’ll make money. If you don’t live near the bars or clubs, you have to seek out the food trucks, which isn’t easy,” Evins said. “The food trucks are also just super overpopulated with people from the bars. If you’re looking for a chill and relaxing meal, you’re not gonna get that with the food trucks.”

The lack of late-night eateries is due to several factors, including the lasting effects of COVID closures, labor shortages and high inflation. Last year, a Colorado Restaurant Association survey found that 54% of the 174 restaurants examined were at risk of closing. The Colorado Restaurant Association highlighted that establishment owners are finding it increasingly difficult to hire staff, despite their efforts to increase pay and benefits. And although conditions have improved with COVID cases dwindling, restaurants are still struggling. 

“Unfortunately it’s not that shocking,” Sonia Riggs, president and CEO of the Colorado Restaurant Association, told KDVR. “On average restaurants have $180,000 in pandemic-related debt. The last two years have been devastating for the industry and it’s going to take some time to get out of that.”

The sheer difficulty of finding a good meal near downtown at night has become an inconvenience to many living in the area. For those like Evins, it’s even affecting the housing search.

“It’s such an inconvenience when it’s around 10 p.m. and you’re getting hungry, and you know you can’t get food,” Evins said. “I want to live in a place where I can walk to get food at restaurants later at night. I don’t want to have to drive out of my way to go find food if I’m hungry.”

For other night owls who are desperate for after-hours food options, Evins recommends a restaurant called Pita Fresh. The restaurant is located on the 16th Street Mall and serves classic Mediterranean dishes and pizza to customers until 2 a.m. Fat Shack is an option for those who want classic, greasy American food late into the night in South Denver. For those craving Asian food, the Bao Brewhouse located in Larimer Square is a reliable option. Open until midnight on Thursday through Saturday, night owls can order a wide selection of classic Chinese dishes. In RiNo, late-night eaters can grab a wood-fired pizza with specialty toppings at Cart Driver. Interested in some higher-brow fare? Pony Up serves French dips and a number of other salty snacks. 

Restaurants in and around Larimer Square have begun to expand their operation hours to close at either 10 p.m. or 11 p.m., but Redditors hope the rest of the city follows suit. 

“In a modern city like Denver, I feel like there should be more food options later at night,” Evins said. “Pretty much everywhere stops selling food at around 10 pm, and I just wish things were open later.”

Living in Denver in 2023 has its

When the bell rang at The Slate Denver’s grand opening in May 2022, the hotel became the new occupant of what was formerly the Emily Griffith Opportunity School. The historical landmark in downtown Denver now boasts 251 rooms across its four stories.

“When we opened the doors, we rang the first bell. We invited all of Emily Griffith teachers, which we have a great partnership with,” said Von Fabella, director of sales and marketing for Slate Denver. “Current teachers, past teachers, alumni and retirees have come here and we want them to have ownership of this hotel. We’re just tenants, so to speak of their history.”

The school opened in September 1916 to fulfill Emily Griffith’s mission of granting every citizen in Denver a chance at success. Now it’s a savvy Hiton-owned hotel where that opportunity continues. The Slate continues to honor the history of the building by incorporating Griffith’s mission and work. Whether it’s the interior design and its cozy school-esque feel, or the history lessons about Griffith’s impact on the city, the hotel worked along with Stonebridge Companies to keep the spirit of the school alive in the corridors of the hotel. 

“I think we’ll always have the spirit of Emily and her students and what they left behind, not necessarily as a supernatural meaning,” Fabella said. “As you walk down the corridors, you could envision and feel the sense of just how many people have walked through them before.”

As guests enter the hotel the first thing they’ll notice is a blackboard that was used to detail course information in 1923.

“You feel like you’re going to study hall when you enter the hotel, almost like the heart of every school where you see friends and feel like a kid or young adult again. We also used a design in the check-in desk that is made to look like library cards,” Fabella said.

However, there are parts of the hotel that just couldn’t be touched as the building is protected by the Historical Society, such as the exterior of the building, the stone, windows and alleyways. Most notable is the former main entrance of the school, where the stairwell and its intricate and vintage design have been retained over the last decade. 

One of the newer and most innovative spaces in the hotel is the Teachers Lounge, a restaurant and bar where the classroom ambience creates a memorable experience. The “Chalkboard Special” and curated menus—which are presented as a stack of composition notebooks—bring the education aspect of the building to the table. 

“Even at the bar there is a sense of learning so to speak as our bartenders teach people how they make the drinks because a lot of our cocktails here are curated,” Fabella said. “We have designed it to be that teaching experience that you would have as a student or as a teacher.”

The Slate is part of the Emily Griffith Foundation and contributes funds from books about Griffith sold at the hotel directly to students. The hotel still has teaching spaces in the kitchen for culinary students from Emily Griffith Technical College who help create the dishes sold in the Teacher’s Lounge.   

“I think we owe this, and all of what makes this hotel to Emily Griffith and it’s necessary for us to discuss and share that with our clients,” Fabella said.

When the bell rang at The Slate