PASTA TENSE: Aurora’s Bent Noodle closes suddenly after nearly 25 years

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AURORA | Patrons of Aurora’s Bent Noodle restaurant were greeted on Monday with an unexpected message scrawled on yellow legal pad paper and posted on the front door: “Closed.”

The Aurora mainstay abruptly closed for good Feb. 23 after nearly a quarter century of business near the corner of South Parker Road and East Dartmouth Avenue. 

The shutdown was the result of a spat between the business owners and the property owner, Portland, Oregon-based Menashe Properties, according to proprietor Steve McCollom. 

“We got screwed,” McCollom said. “We’re kind of living in that world right now where rich people get to screw the little guy all the time. It’s just how it is. It’s a tough situation for us.”

McCollom, 63, said he learned he had to vacate the premises by this week about four weeks ago. The notice to leave came following a lengthy dispute over a wheelchair ramp in front of the building, McCollom said. 

He said Menashe eventually fixed the ramp, but declined to extend the Bent Noodle lease.

“Instead of sending me the papers for renewing the lease, (they) sent me an eviction notice,” McCollom said. 

Jordan Menashe, CEO of Menashe Properties, said in an email that McCollom had the option to extend the lease on his restaurant last year, but failed to do so by a specified deadline.

“The tenant had the ability to extend the term of its tenancy at its sole discretion, but that right expired back in August of 2019,” Menashe wrote. “As late as December 2019, we had not received notice of his renewal plans, if any, or a commitment to discuss alternate plans. We are not sure why the tenant did not exercise its right to extend, but we appreciate its tenancy and wish Bent Noodle the best at its next endeavor.”

Menashe confirmed that another, unnamed tenant will be expanding into the former Bent Noodle space in the near future.

“We were able to move forward with an existing tenant of the property that appreciated our property management team and wanted to expand within the complex,” he wrote.

“The Bent Noodle” was certified as a trade name on March 7, 1996 by “Think of the Pastabilities Inc.,” according to Colorado Secretary of State records. McCollom, a former accountant and insurance worker, bought Bent Noodle with his wife in 2014.

“I just decided I didn’t want to sit behind a desk anymore,” he said. “So I decided I’d get into business where I would stay active and interact with people. It’s been the most fun business I’ve been in ever, and the people of Aurora have been great.”

McCollom said he’s upset his roughly 30 employees, who range from tenured cooks to teenaged busboys and busgirls from Aurora-area high schools, will be out of work. 

“It’ll be toughest on them,” he said. 

About a dozen Bent Noodle staffers were milling about the restaurant Monday afternoon preparing inventory for an auction later this week. Patrons can come buy a piece of the restaurant onsite Thursday morning. 

McCollom said he’s heard from numerous customers who have voiced their displeasure with the restaurant’s closure. Count longtime customer Sarah Lincoln among the perturbed.

“It’s been just a staple,” said Lincoln, a mental health practitioner from Aurora. “It’s just a place I think people feel very comfortable, and I think it is the quintessential neighborhood restaurant. It’s very sad to see it go.”

Other patrons are still coming to the restaurant and learning about the closing the hard way: in person. 

Leslie Salgado, who works in the American Financing building directly behind The Bent Noodle, said she and her coworkers came to the Italian-inspired eatery about three times a month for calamari at lunch or happy hour drinks later in the day. 

She was surprised to see the hand-written “closed” sign when she showed up for a bite Monday afternoon. 

“There’s restaurants across the street, but this is so convenient and the food’s good,” Salgado said. “It’s kind of sad.”

McCollom said he is actively looking for a new location to re-open the restaurant, but hasn’t made any concrete plans. In the meantime, he and his wife said they’ll miss the regulars and staffers that have come to feel like family members.

“We’re really going to miss everybody who was here,” McCollom said. “ … Jeanine and I both have developed relationships with a lot of people and it’s kind of sad to have that severed.”