By Jennifer Pund
After almost 20 years of owning the Gold Hill Store and Café, Hugh Moore is finally serving beer, wine and liquor to his costumers. Thanks to a new tavern license, tourist business has increased and more locals are coming in the doors. Stocked with local beer and a select bar, Gold Hill Store and Café can now serve adult beverages to accompany its renowned food and unique history.
Until recently, Moore wasn’t comfortable selling alcohol at the café because his employees have traditionally been young girls working after school and on weekends. “I never had a liquor license before because these high school girls were here working alone and I just wouldn’t take the remote chance a bunch of guys would get too buzzed and intimidate a high school senior or college girl,” he said. “But now they are in their mid-20s. One said to me ‘just give me a hammer, I will be OK.’”
Moore said the time was “right,” economically, to pursue the license and his workers were all of age to make and serve drinks. When approval came through, he stocked up on beer and purchased a small, “good, basic” bar. “I have one label of each kind of spirit, and some specialty liquors until I learn what people want and what’s most popular,” he said. “I now also have Upslope and Lefthand beer delivering along with Coors, and we carry Dales Pale Ale from Oskar Blues, so I will have a variety of beer and start carrying more local craft beer too.” He says if there is enough of a demand for something specific, he will try to get it.
For now beer is served in the bottle or can, but plans are in the works to install a draft tap or two. “We are going to put in at least one tap. We have room for kegs in our walk-in cooler, so we will just rotate beer and if something is selling like crazy and seems more popular than anything else, we will just stick with it.”
With the acquisition of the tavern license in mid-March, Moore said his business is up significantly. “In 2008, we stopped being profitable and then about a year later, European tourist business started to drop. To lose them on top of local American tourists was very hard. We have been struggling and clawing our way back to breaking even, which we have achieved,” he said. “[This year] is off to a great start already, and it’s not just people coming out of curiosity as it might have been that first week or two I had my license, but more people are coming back.”
Relying mostly on tourists, Moore has noticed an uptick in sales since he added a “BAR” sign. “We have always been
90 percent a tourist business, Gold Hill is just too small to support a store, so we had to attract tourists, and our food has done that in the past. Now, a lot of people see the word “bar” and they stop, where they might not have before.”
Although business is up due to alcohol sales, Moore assures the comfortable feel will not be lost. “It’s clearly helping this place, yet the café still has this good vibe and good energy, so it’s not going to be a rowdy bar or a drinking hang out,” he explained. “Drinking will be encouraged with meals, we are still a café.” It will also help compliment live music events.
Built in the 1890s, the business’ building once served as a grocery store. The deli case, still in use, is original. There was no refrigeration, so ice blocks were taken from Brainard Lake in winter and stored in sawdust for summer in an ice house behind the building. Ice shavings were then used to keep food cold.
For many reasons, Gold Hill boomed and busted a few times. By the 1950s, only two families were left. In the 1970s, the town gained in popularity and grew to around 150 to 200 residents.
The building was opened once again as a health food and general store. The owners added the kitchen, bathroom and had the walk-in custom made including the wooden display shelves with period hinges and latches. According to Moore, the store struggled through roughly 20 different owners until he purchased it in 1995 and immediately converted into a café and store. He credits Mary Russell, local resident and well-known Colorado musician, for creating the café feel. “She worked here for a few years in the beginning and said we should have pie and quiches,” Moore said. Keeping with this tradition, they are still offered today as well as many other breakfast and lunch options, only difference, you can wash it down with a favorite cocktail or beer.
The Gold Hill Store and Café is located at 531 Main St. in Gold Hill. For the month of May, in addition to regular hours from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. on weekdays, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Saturday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Sunday and will re-open on Friday and Saturday evenings from 6:30 – 9:30 p.m. or later. Call 303-443-7724, find the business on Facebook or visit http://www.goldhillgeneralstore.com to learn more.
Originally published in the May 2015 issue of the MMAC Monthly