Clairette, French cocktail lounge, replaces Au Feu Brasserie in Denver

When Jared Leonard closed Wash Park’s Au Feu Brasserie in January, he set out to create a concept better suited for the neighborhood.

“Au Feu was meant to be fine-dining with a European wine list that won an Award of Excellence in ‘Wine Spectator,’” Leonard said. “It was very sophisticated, and we did a lot of things right there, but it’s not what that Wash Park neighborhood wants. The format didn’t really fit.”

On June 15, Clairette, a new French cocktail bar with Mediterranean small bites, opened in place of Au Feu Brasserie at 81 S. Pennsylvania St. Leonard, who also owns AJ’s Pit Bar-B-Q in Denver, Campfire in Evergreen and Lakewood and the now-closed Grabowski’s, originally opened Au Feu in 2021 after a brief stint in RiNo’s Zeppelin Station food hall. He wasn’t ready to leave the neighborhood quite yet, so he decided to pivot instead.

“Wash Park is a young, vibrant neighborhood, and we wanted something that has more of a neighborhood feel that appeals to everyone,” Leonard said. “This new concept is really fun and with the theme of the food being Mediterranean rather than strictly fine-dining French, it allows us to do things without being restricted to a French cookbook.”

Clairette, named after one of the oldest white wine grapes grown in the southern region of France, is designed to fit small groups with 75 seats. The drinks are made with fresh squeezed juices, simple syrups and some handmade sodas, including the “Take it Easy” with tequila, mezcal and homemade wild berry simple syrup over a large stone.

“We want to appeal to the masses,” said general manager EJ Psilas.

The modern Mediterranean small bites menu is easy to snack on before dinner or can be the whole meal, whether you order some mussels in saffron wine broth, lamb sliders or a roasted Chilean sea bass over an orzo and quinoa mix.

Clairette has expanded Au Feu’s floral mural, brightened up the dining room and added a bright pink “What if I Fall? Oh But My Darling, What if you Fly?” neon sign. Leonard said they plan to add a nano wall to the front of the space in the next month to continue the open-air setting that the block has.

“Carmine’s, Uncle and The Spot all have open-air storefronts, so we want to open up our windows so people can smell the smells, hear the sounds and see the feels in the neighborhood. It’s a really great corner for destination dining, and we all offer different things that are complementary to the neighborhood.”

81 S. Pennsylvania St., Denver; Open Monday-Saturday from 4 to 10 p.m.;

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