November 20, 2013 Updated: November 21, 2013 at 5:51 am
The Olive Branch, the downtown eatery that has attracted Colorado Springs' elite for more than 30 years, will close at the end of December.
Owner Mark Meltzer said Wednesday that health issues factored into his decision to close the restaurant, which opened in the late '70s.
"Right now, I don't know what I am going to do, other than rest and take it easy," said Meltzer, 62.
While the restaurant known for its baked-fresh-daily lemon bread is closing, the space at 23 S. Tejon St. will be vacant only until February. Meltzer, who bought the building in 1996, said he is leasing the space to Chuck Holcomb, who plans to open a Mexican restaurant. Holcomb owns Lucha Colorado Cantina in Breckenridge and Georgetown.
Lionel Rivera, former mayor of Colorado Springs, used to meet his city manager at the Olive Branch at least once a week to discuss city business and plan their week. He said the closing of the Olive Branch will leave a hole in the city where mayors, nonprofit executives and business leaders have gathered for meetings and networking.
"The brain trust is going to be missing a place to share their thoughts," said Rivera, a vice president at UBS Financial Services.
Meltzer said the restaurant has 30 employees, some of whom may end up working at Holcomb's restaurant.
The Olive Branch started as a Christian restaurant in the late 1970s, in a space at the corner of Tejon and Boulder streets.Meltzer acquired it in 1979, then opened another restaurant, TJ Hapgood's, in 1994 in the building where the Olive Branch is now. By 1996, he realized running two restaurants was too difficult, so Meltzer closed the Boulder Street restaurant, turning TJ Hapgood's into today's Olive Branch.
"When we started, almost everything was made from scratch, and nothing was deep fried" Meltzer said. "We were one of the first healthy restaurants in Colorado Springs and nothing is deep fried still."
Meltzer will celebrate his closing with a different jazz band every Friday night from 6:30 p.m. until close.
Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275