After two challenging years of lessons learned, Pete Turner of Illegal Pete’s has nothing but gratitude for his restaurants’ customers.
Turner closed Illegal Pete’s locations for several months when the COVID-19 pandemic began, citing concern for his communities and his 400 employees. When the restaurants reopened, Turner wanted to experiment in order to survive the difficult times.
Turner, the founder of Illegal Pete’s, will look to do more new things with his popular quick-service burrito chain in 2022. Illegal Pete’s plans to open three new locations in Colorado this year.
Turner told The Denver Post that the chain will open its first Colorado Springs location this June at 32 S. Tejon St.
“It’s really neat. They’re doing some work to a four-block area over there to make it more pedestrian-friendly,” Turner said. “Colorado Springs is totally transforming, and tons of cool stuff is happening, and we’re excited to be a part of it.”
The location will be 5,500 square feet, about 2,000 square feet more than the typical Illegal Pete’s restaurant, Turner said. But the extra space doesn’t concern him.
“We’re just gonna try a couple of new things; everything has changed in the last two years with COVID,” Turner said. “(We are) rethinking our digital and off-premise business … and focusing on digital sales down there.”
Turner signed a lease this week for another location in the Denver metro, at 26th Avenue and Kipling Street, right where Wheat Ridge and Lakewood meet. The hope is for that location to be opened in the fall.
“Overlooking that open space into downtown Denver, it’s awesome,” Turner said.
If all things fall into place, Pete’s will go from 12 to 15 restaurants by year’s end. The last of those would open in the winter on West Colfax Avenue and Utica Street, near Sloan’s Lake.
That project still needs city approval because the plan is for a major remodel. Turner will team up with Tres Birds Workshop, which has done several splashy architecture projects for local establishments. This restaurant will focus on sustainability and employee satisfaction, like providing natural light in the kitchens.
While COVID-19 has challenged Colorado restaurants to their cores, Illegal Pete’s enters 2022 with more reason to hope.
“It was a really extremely hard time,” Turner said. “Now, (we are) standing here saying we’ll make it and also kind of realizing how lucky we are to have done that. That’s awesome. It’s being smart about how we run our business, how we employ, how we serve food, and how we engage in our communities. Now it’s moving forward and just being thankful for this opportunity.”
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