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11/21/2013 Sangritas to reopen with twist on international fare

For local restaurant aficionados, the winter offers sparse pickings for a meal out on the town. That will soon change, however, with the opening of Sangritas at 212 Main Street in Westcliffe. Danny and Dawnett Marples have obtained the lease on the building and are busily preparing to open the eatery on December 6, when it will begin to serve lunch and dinner. The Sangrita name will stay.

In Sangrita’s main dining room, the Marples, sitting at a table with a new buff-brown tablecloth, revealed themselves to be an energetic couple who clearly possess extensive experience in operating a restaurant. Former proprietors of the Red Lion in Arvada, the pair beam when they describe their years running a popular diner.

"We thrived on it," Dawnett says. "We loved being an integral part of that community."

Danny agrees, adding, "We hosted fundraisers, sponsored youth football and even private events, like a class reunion where we set up a nacho and taco bar. The last year of the Red Lion, we hosted 31 private events."

The Marples are opening the restaurant in the Valley because of Wal-Mart. The Red Lion Tavern was a thriving business until Wal-Mart acquired a huge swath of land in Arvada to build a new store. The tavern, having been in business for 52 years though with different owners, happened to be in its path. On June 15, 2012, the Marples permanently closed their lucrative enterprise and headed to the Wet Mountains to "chill out."

"We had owned the Red Lion since 2007," Dawnett said. "It was our baby, and we had a lot of fun there hosting events and celebrations – and suddenly it was all gone, along with all of the other mom-and-pop businesses forced out by Wal-Mart."

Not only did Arvada lose a vibrant community gathering place with the end of The Red Lion, but the Marples didn’t get a dime for the loss of their business.

"We retreated to Westcliffe mourning the demise of the Red Lion," Dawnett says. "Then we learned Sangritas was available."

She and Danny look at each other smiling. "We always toyed with opening a restaurant in Westcliffe that we’d operate along with the Red Lion," Danny says. "A few years ago, we even looked at Poug’s and did a full inspection of the restaurant, but then decided we weren’t ready to buy."

Dawnett nods. "And we always joked that if Sangritas came available, we’d hop on it. Then one day our neighbor, Carolyn Abrams, called and told us the building was up for rent. We took a week to think about it and decided, ‘yes, let’s go for it.’"

"We have things with Sangritas that we didn’t have at the Red Lion," Danny remarks. "It has a patio, for instance, which we love. It also has a much larger kitchen – I can go crazy in it whipping up food."

The Marples have big plans for the new Sangritas. Its menu will include some traditional fare, like appetizers, salads, burgers, sandwiches and burritos. However, it will also feature more refined dishes, like penne and angle hair pasta recipes, lasagna, cacciatore chicken and pork and stuffed shells. Danny, of German descent, will also roll out diverse German cuisine, including schnitzels and sauerbraten.

"We will feature four different soups," Dawnett says, "including red and green chili and a chicken gnocchi soup."

Sangritas will offer daily specials where new recipes will be "test-driven" for clientele to try out. "We will balance American cuisine with niche entrees," Dawnett says. "We look forward to making changes to the old Sangritas’ menu."

The couple has a lot of experience in the restaurant business. Danny describes his own background, saying, "I was 12 when I started work at a restaurant in Arvada called Bernards. I cleaned, bused tables, washed dishes….I worked in that place until I was 23, from 1979 to 1990. I was taught to cook by three different chefs, one of whom I still remain in contact with and who still advises me."

"I was the salad girl at Bernards," Dawnett said. "We made all the dressings and sauces by scratch – not from a bottle. That’s what we learned, to make all food from fresh ingredients."

The Marples both grew up in Arvada and raised their kids there. They knew each other in high school, but didn’t date until after graduation when they both worked at Bernards.

After Bernard died and his restaurant closed, Danny switched careers and worked 21 years at IBM in the IT department. Dawnett worked at the National Jewish Hospital and opened a few of her own businesses. When the Red Lion came up for sale, the two moved back into the food business.

"When we lost the Red Lion I considered going back to IBM," Danny says. "But then I dismissed it – I love running a restaurant and Sangritas allows us to live in the area and have jobs."

The Marples live on Oak Creek Grade in a house they bought five years ago. They keep three horses there as well as a heeler and large lab.

"We love people," Dawnett adds. "And everyone just wants to belong, to be a part of something. Sangritas will be a gathering place for all of us to socialize and have fun."

– Cyn Williams

 
 
 
 
 
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