The smell of freshly roasted coffee beans and spices wafting through the air, the whistling of a coffee machine indicating to the barista the brew is ready — local coffee shops bring a feeling of warmth and comfort to any guests that set foot through its doors. The Bardo Coffee House has been a beacon of this to visitors for over 10 years now.
Chris Graves, owner of The Bardo Coffee House, originally started a web hosting company so, naturally, he had spent a lot of time in coffee shops. After one of his favorite places closed down in 2006, he never quite found another that felt like home. When a space opened up below his office on Broadway in 2010, he took it as an opportunity to open his own coffee shop and has been expanding his business ever since. It wasn’t until about four years ago that he sold his web hosting company and focused primarily on managing the coffee houses.
Though it may not seem like it at first glance, The Bardo Coffee House is completely powered by wind. Xcel Energy offers the option to use wind-powered to its users to help mitigate the production of pollution. With how much electricity a coffee shop uses, paying a little extra for wind power seemed to be the best option.
“I had an internet company beforehand and doing web hosting was very power intensive and so we decided that we wanted to do wind power for that because we used a lot of electricity,” Graves said. “You think that just doing web hosting you are not causing any pollution, but, in reality, you still are because you are using electricity…then when I opened up my coffee house 10 years ago this was just the logical extension of that.”
As of 2017, there are two Bardo Coffee Houses. The newest one in Wheat Ridge offers a rotating menu of beers and wines from various local breweries in addition to coffee. They even offer house-made burritos and other locally sourced food items for those looking to get a little snack or meal to go with their drink.
“With that spot in Wheat Ridge, a lot of people were asking for that to be an 18-hour place which means that they can come and get their coffee in the morning and then also meet a friend for a beer or wine in the evening or go on a date…so they were really looking for a place that was open late that was not a bar,” Graves said.
Though it is hard to have a solid plan for 2021 as it rounds the corner, Graves is eager to be able to offer his customers a space where they can work and socialize once again, even if it is still with being six feet apartment and occupancy limits.
“I am just going day to day here, trying to work through things one day at a time and that is all I can do,” Graves said.
There is no way to sugarcoat the struggle that many people and businesses have faced this year and are continuing to face. But Graves believes in the importance of places like his and urge people to keep fighting for their existence.
“These small businesses and restaurants and bars, they are the character of the city…” Graves said. “Call them up and go to their website to see if they have anything that you can do to help them. Whatever you are comfortable with, go do it. This is a bad situation for everyone and making a little effort goes a long way.”
The Bardo Coffee House is currently offering take-out, pick-up and some outdoor dining options at both locations and will reopen the cafe area when the guidelines are lifted. The Bardo Coffee House is located at 6150 W. 38th Ave Wheat Ridge, CO 80033 and at 238 South Broadway Denver, CO 80209.
All photography by Adrienne Thomas.