ViewHouse owner hopes new, whimsical concept will help rejuvenate downtown Denver
Bird cages with booths inside, giant tea cups as tables, seven dining areas spinning on a turntable, a 6-foot parrot and 3-foot butterfly sculptures.
That’s just a glimpse of what to expect from Francois Safieddine’s upcoming downtown Denver venture this winter.
The CEO of Lotus Concepts, the restaurant group behind ViewHouse and My Neighbor Felix, has plans to open Wonderyard Garden + Table, a bar-forward restaurant with art-deco designs, at 2200 Larimer St. by February 2024.
“I want to rejuvenate things downtown,” Safieddine said. “I’m very heavily invested in the city, and I want to do my part to create draws for people to come downtown. If I can create a unique draw with a distinct experience that no one else has in the city, it will be beneficial for both downtown Denver and the future of my other businesses.”
Safieddine purchased the 100-year-old vacant building at 2200 Larimer St. for $8 million in 2018, according to property records. He’s transforming the 12,080-square-foot space into a retreat inspired by “The Secret Garden” and “The Great Gatsby,” with an indoor-outdoor setting similar to ViewHouse.
“Right now, the city doesn’t need a nightclub. It doesn’t need another restaurant. It does not need another small cocktail bar,” Safieddine said. “Could it use it? Sure. But there are plenty of those. What we’re offering is a little bit different.”
Safieddine said this is a passion project for his whole Lotus Concepts team, which has had a hand in the entire design process. They hired a Chinese vendor who makes the spinning teacups at Disney World to custom design a table for the restaurant and found an old car turntable to add booths to so guests can get a 360-degree view of the whole restaurant while enjoying dinner.
The whimsical tented garden will be filled with plants and over-the-top sculptures. Inside, there will be eclectic tapestries and wallpaper and an expansive LED screen with custom visuals.
Guests can indulge in shareable plates, like paninis, burrata, patatas bravas and myriad flatbreads, which the restaurant consulted Basta’s chef Jose Rodriguez on. There will be large-format cocktails for the whole table to sip on, and Instagram-friendly concoctions.
“Social media has changed the way you eat at a restaurant, so we want to accommodate that demand,” Safieddine said.
Safieddine has a long real estate portfolio, mostly in LoDo, like the former Rio Grande space, the Sports Column bar and the property at 1930 Blake St. But he also boasts properties in Cherry Creek and RiNo.
The local entrepreneur, who opened ViewHouse in LoDo in 2013 and My Neighbor Felix in LoHi in 2020, said that despite downtown Denver’s problems, he believes in the city’s heart long-term. And he’s confident in new Mayor Mike Johnston’s plans to turn things around.
“Some of the other restaurant owners downtown, like Kenny Monfort, and I are invested in downtown and often talk about how to shake things up,” Safieddine said. “Hopefully with the new mayor, we feel like in the next six months to a year, we should be able to revive downtown.”
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