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A beloved Five Points bar closes its doors after long fight with pandemic
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Rita's Law, a bar in the Five Points neighborhood of Denver, closes after making a lasting impact on the community. 

DENVER “It’s hard. It is hard to know when to call it. As a business owner, you think to yourself, I can probably get myself out of this hole, maybe, but how?" explained Rita Price. 

Since 2019, Price was the proud owner of local watering hole, Rita’s Law, located on the south side of Five Points at 2209 Welton Street. Despite Price’s best efforts and resilience through some tough times, she had to close the bar this fall.  

“I feel blessed that so many people felt the bar and were affected in a good way and told me things. It means so much to me,” said Price.  

At the farewell party on Friday, September 24, the bar was packed with patrons. Around the room, hugs were shared and heartfelt messages were jotted down in a notebook as a way for all to remember the power of the place.  

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“Rita’s Law was a place of community and everybody, I think, felt welcomed, free to be safe and be whoever they are, and that’s all I ever wanted,” said Price.  

Closing the doors so soon after opening was never part of the plan, but neither was a global pandemic.  

“People I know have also closed. I think what a lot of people don’t realize [is] it's like waves come in sets; a lot of places closed when COVID happened, I definitely thought about it, I know everybody did. But it's hard even to remember now but we all thought, 'Maybe a month, maybe a week’… and then it kept going,” said Price. “It’s just really hard. People weren’t coming out." 

On top of trying to stay afloat during COVID-19, Price also faced challenges with the location of the bar. She said many customers felt a little unsafe because of nearby homeless encampments.

“The encampments have moved closer downtown in this area. I wish there were a better solution for the unhoused,” Price said. “Our government needs to address the unhoused population. Small businesses like mine close every day. I feel terrible. I could become homeless one day. You never know. We need a solution.”

[Related: Study: First-time homelessness doubled in Denver area over the past year]

Price grew up in Colorado and knows that the Five Points area is historically known as a hub for facilities that serve the unhoused population, as well as an area that has a lot of encampment sites. Price said those factors did not deter her from starting her business in the area. 

“I chose the Five Points area because I love this area. I love the history of the area; this area goes so deep and far beyond,” she explained. “I chose this area because I wanted to be in an area that was diverse and had community already. I did not want my bar to be just a 'LoDo' kind-of-spot.” 

In the bar's brief time being open, Price had received nothing but positive feedback from customers, friends and family. One of the bar's loyal customers, Heather Tyler, said she became friends with Price because of the vibe and comfort she felt every time she visited the bar. 

“I visited Rita’s Law as often as I could just on the simple fact that it did feel like a community there,” Tyler said. “I went to the bar by myself, not knowing anyone, and befriended the bartenders. Rita’s Law is the kind of place you can do that and feel safe. When I kept visiting the bar, I noticed people were essentially doing the same thing as me. I built lasting bonds with people there.” 

On the other side of the bar, employees felt the same way.  

“Rita worked hard to make this was a welcoming space and that bartenders welcomed whoever when they walked through the door,” said Anna Burrell, a former bartender at Rita’s Law. “What this place created was inherent to business resilience. The Five Points area is unique because we would have customers from 80 years old to 21 years old. This bar created a space of community for people who have lived here for decades or just moved here yesterday.” 

Tyler said she has confidence that Price will get back on her feet in no time. 

“I have huge hopes, and I envision what Rita is going to do amazing things on her next journey. I’m always telling her, ‘It’s not over!’ I don’t believe in giving up when something doesn’t work. You keep trying till you get it right. This isn’t goodbye,” said Tyler.  

Price said she feels blessed beyond reason that so many people support her and feel she reached her goal of building a community, not just “some bar.” 

“I keep saying you know, I can’t believe the bar failed and its done, but I’ve had at least 30 people say, ‘The physical brick and mortar bar is done but Rita’s isn’t!’ And it's amazing, so many people. It's a whole feeling so, it's hard to take that in and understand, but I’m really trying to figure out how to move on and what I am going to do next.” 

Price said she does have some ideas in mind and will share details of this plan on social media platforms when she is ready. 


Lindsey Ford is a multimedia journalist with Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at lindseyford@rmpbs.org.

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