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Colorado's Best Restaurant Design: Black Eye Coffee Cap Hill

Inside Colorado Restaurant Association's Industry Spotlight Awards



The Colorado Restaurant Association’s Industry Spotlight Awards celebrates the restaurant industry and the top stars of hospitality. For the 2016 awards presentation event, Colorado Home & Lifestyles magazine was tasked with the honor of choosing the winner of the first-annual Best Restaurant Design Award.

The award is selected based on how the restaurant design spatially and aesthetically suits service and function, as well as customer comfort and enjoyment.

Our editors worked tirelessly to visit numerous Colorado Restaurant Association members’ locations, looking for the best overall restaurant design. We finally concluded on Black Eye Coffee Cap Hill, the light-filled and literary-inspired space that is much, much more than a coffee joint.

“I love how the light comes blasting into the windows like a cup of joe to your system,” says Colorado Home & Lifestyles editor in chief Kate Meyers. “I love the old-school use of tile, the velvet and gold, the logos, the fonts, the mugs, the overall attention to detail—and, of course, the use of neon art in the bathroom.”

The numerous odes to literary greats will warm anyone’s heart—but especially the hearts of a handful of editors! Portraits of poets line the walls, books rest in the velvet booths’ built-in shelves, and beloved Emily Dickinson quotes shine on the bathroom walls. 

We caught up with Steven Waters, co-owner of Black Eye Coffee Cap Hill, who shed some light on the restaurant’s design story.


Photo by Colleen O'Brien

The Capitol Hill location is the second Black Eye Coffee installment; the first shop is located in the Denver highlands. While the original spot pays homage to and is adored by its neighborhood, the owners of Black Eye Coffee Cap Hill wanted to steer clear of recreating the exact concept of the highlands location.

“We knew that if we were going to do a coffee shop around the Capitol Hill neighborhood, it would need to stay open late, have a decent amount of food, and have a bar, as well," says Waters. "It would need to be a catchall for any time of day, and any situation.”


Photo by Colleen O'Brien

Thus, the Black Eye Coffee Cap Hill has expanded upon its delicious, exclusively roasted coffee and fresh pastries with a full breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu, as well as a full bar—all while displaying some serious, poetic style.


Photo by Colleen O'Brien

“Everything down to smallest detail is inspired by the Poets Row apartments that are right up the street: photos of authors line the walls, and all of the cocktails on the menu are named after pieces of literary works of those artists,” says Waters. “We also expanded upon the style of Poets Row—art deco lines, colors and textures—without doing a full-on art deco theme.”


Photo by Casper Lundemann

The brilliant minds behind the design? “It was a collective effort between my partners and myself,” says Waters, whose Black Eye Coffee partners include Sarah Simon, Ali Elman, Gregory Ferrari, and Dustin Audet. “We designed every single piece of the space, all the way down to the electrical sockets, and we sourced all the furniture and fixtures ourselves.”


Photo by Casper Lundemann

While none of the owners has a specific design background, they felt confident designing their own space, and rightly so. “A lot of it came through each of our individual aesthetics, the way that we see things, and what served optimal functionality,” Waters adds. “We all aimed to create a highly versatile space that could stay incredibly efficient in a high-volume environment.”


Photo by Casper Lundemann

It’s important to the owners to maintain a café feel during the day—and not exude the feeling of a bar that’s open as a coffee shop during the day, or a coffee shop that’s open as a bar at night. That versatility is best seen after visiting the space in the morning, afternoon, and night.

“We really wanted it to have its own identity, to change from day to night, becoming a whole different space. The shift between day and night is my favorite aspect of the space,” says Waters.

“You can come in during the day and continue to notice new things. But then you visit at night and get a completely new feel, from the bar shelves that rotate to expose the liquor (which are turned the other direction during the day), to the lighting and music changes. The whole vibe develops—we like to call it our alter-ego of the coffee shop. It plays into that hedonistic lifestyle of poets and writers, and their notoriously dark personalities that come along with that creativity.”

WATCH THE VIDEO:

SEE ALSO: The Full List of the 2016 CRA Industry Spotlight Award Winners

The Best Restaurant Design Award, as well as many other restaurant industry awards, will be presented at the Colorado Restaurant Association’s 2016 Industry Spotlight Awards on Tuesday, May 10, 2016 from 6pm – 10pm. The event will feature a progressive stand-up dinner hosted by 5 local female chefs and a silent auction that benefits the Colorado Restaurant Association Education Foundation.

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