May 4—Fans of The Hangar Bar and Grill, 100 23rd St., are planning one last meal at the historic eatery before in closes June 15 and the building falls to the wrecking ball.
An Interstate 25 realignment project forced Hangar owners Brian and Shawn Valencia to decide if they wanted to move to a new location or take a buyout from the Colorado Department of Transportation.
In a poignant Facebook announcement, the Valencias let their customers know the bittersweet news — the buyout option was their choice. The post generated 176 comments and 286 shares.
Customers praised the hard-working couple and talked about the many memories they made at the restaurant. Sam Romero, his wife Resa and their six children are among Hangar fans saddened by the impending closure.
"We would always look forward to a meal at the Hangar as we knew we were going to have salad, fresh daily homemade soup and some custard or chocolate pudding for dessert that was always included with your main entrée. Everyone loved all the food — it made many bellies happy," Romero said.
Romero's all-time favorite was the Monte Cristo sandwich. It had ham, turkey, American and Swiss cheeses on white bread and was dipped in beer batter and deep fried to a crispy golden brown before being topped with powdered sugar.
"For some of us the Monte Cristo was the best in the world. And believe me, we have tried Monte Cristo's just about everywhere that we had traveled," Romero said.
"Nowhere in the world have we had the option of a Monte Cristo with not just some jelly, but also Pueblo green chile on the side."
"Our customers are like the best customers ever we will miss them," said Shawn Valencia. "Our customers are like our family."
Former owner Frankie Spinuzzi bought the Hangar in 1982 and ran it until the Valencia's took over in November of 2010.
"It was a 3.2 joint, Dundas, in the 1950s and 60's. I was told it was a gas station before that," Shawn said. "We knew when we bought it there was a possibility they would be expanding that highway in the future. We figured it would be maybe 20 years."
Although it came sooner than expected, the couple was ready to end that chapter of their lives.
"It's been a very rough year, personally. We've had some losses and I was ill," Shawn said. "It just seemed like it came at the right time."
When the Valencia's bought the restaurant, they expanded to breakfast, lunch and dinner.
"We did breakfast, lunch and dinner six days a week and then closed at 3 p.m. on Sundays. Until this last year with COVID then we were closed on Sundays and Mondays.
"We just don't have the help to be open those days. We are going to miss the restaurant but we are not going to miss working all the time," Shawn Valencia admitted.
The restaurant has everything from a traditional breakfast to Pueblo's signature slopper to steak and lobster dinners.
"We go from one end to the other," Shawn said with a laugh in describing the restaurants' eclectic menu.
Making the decision to close, the couple picked June 15 because their liquor license will expire the next day.
They then have 90 days to clear everything from the premises.
According to Michelle Peulen, communications director for the Colorado Department of Transportation's southeast corner of the state, property acquisition and design is the beginning of the I-25 and East U.S. 50 realignment project aimed at improving Exit 100A.
"We have to make significant improvements for freight mobility — the bridge clearance is too low. We have certain freight trucks that have to completely reroute because they can't make it under that bridge — so that is a problem," Peulen said.
"It's all a part of the New Pueblo Freeway we've been talking about reconstructing and realigning through Pueblo for many years. The I-25 Ilex (Street) project was the first phase of many that will change the look of I-25 through Pueblo."
Work at Exit 100A likely will get underway in the next two to four years, Peulen said. That will allow time for property owners to relocate, "if that's what they choose to do," she said.
Working with the highway department has been a positive experience, Shawn said.
"They've been very nice and very helpful," she said.
As for the future of the couple, they are ready to semi-retire. They have a few vacations planned and will continue to run another business they own, plus Shawn Valencia does a little bit of real estate work.
"We were busy before, but it is busier now," that people know the end is near, she said. "Pueblo has been so supportive of us, it's been amazing," Shawn said.