The patio area of Solera is lined with vintage western memorabilia including license plates, washboards and cast iron skillets. Solera restaurant on east Colfax on Wednesday, August 13, 2014. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)
“It’s been a journey, but I’m ready to do something different and work on myself,” Goose Sorensen told us about the March closure of Solera, his Spanish/Mediterranean restaurant on East Colfax.
Sorensen still owns the building that will house Hank’s Texas Barbecue, helmed by Old Major alum Christopher Nicki. “This neighborhood has become much more family oriented than when I started this restaurant,” Sorensen said. “People are wanting a place to come where they can bring their kids, and everyone loves barbecue.”
Sorensen opened Solera 16 years ago in an area of Denver that was then rife with prostitutes, crime and vacant buildings. “One time I had all the executives out from the Mondavi winery,” he laughs. “We’re sitting there sampling a 1974 Chateauneuf du Pape and these three working girls came in and asked if we wanted any company. I kind of had to run them out!”
Sorensen said he carried bear spray to break up fights in the parking lot.
The neighborhood wasn’t the only challenge facing Sorensen. His former business partner left him with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of debt, his father passed away, and he had to go to court several times to settle the estate. But Sorensen’s perseverance paid off: He is now debt-free.
“There’s so much competition in Denver now! The city has changed, with new restaurants opening every day. It’s crazy,” he said. “Finding staff is horrible. I feel like I’m getting out at the right time. The writing was on the wall. I was so burned out. I opened Solera when I was 30. It’s a young man’s game and I need some life maintenance.”
For now, his plans include heading to some family property near Casper, Wyo., where he wants to restore some cabins and fish.
“I need some serious down time,” he said.
However, Sorensen doesn’t feel like he’s ending on a sad note.
“I’m proud of what we did with Solera,” he says. “The love and support we’ve gotten from everyone has been overwhelming. I fought through the challenges and persevered. I got to go out on my own terms, and I’m happy about that.”
Solera, 5410 E Colfax Ave., closed in March. Hank’s Texas Barbecue opening in late June.