Boulder's new Taco Bell Cantina will not be able to serve beer when it opens sometime in the next week or so on University Hill, but the company says it does hope to offer alcohol at the location sometime in the future.
The hold-up? Taco Bell's plans to keep its new Cantina-branded restaurant on the Hill open until 3 a.m. — later than city officials will allow if it serves alcohol.
A company spokeswoman confirmed that Taco Bell plans to open one of its new Cantina locations at 1155 13th St. The company hopes to open the doors to the restaurant sometime before the end of the year, but has not announced an opening date.
But one thing that's certain is that the location will not be able to offer alcohol when it opens.
The new Cantina locations were marketed as featuring "a smaller footprint leveraging urban or in-line development, localized design and artwork as well as alcohol offerings, including beer," according to a new release from the company. Notably, the Cantina restaurants don't feature drive-thru windows.
Boulder denied Taco Bell's application for a restaurant-hotel liquor license application due to zoning issues, a city official said. Boulder's zoning laws would have allowed Taco Bell Cantina to qualify for a liquor license if the restaurant closed at 11 p.m., but, for now, the chain opted to keep that location open until 3 a.m.
The city said it returned the application to Taco Bell, but has not yet seen a resubmitted application.
A Taco Bell spokeswoman, who declined to give her name, said that because of the zoning issue, the restaurant will initially open without alcohol. But, she added, "there are plans to have alcohol in the future," and said the company hopes to submit another liquor license application soon.
The popular chain already has thee restaurants in Boulder, at 3255 28th St., 3210 Arapahoe Ave. and 2450 Baseline Road, but all three are more traditional drive-thru locations.
But while the liquor license issue is pending, the company said the Taco Bell Cantina model offers things besides booze that the drive-thru locations do not, including shared plates.
"They are really supposed to be as unique as the community they are in," the company said in a statement. "It's a place more so that people can hang out and enjoy spending time inside as opposed to just going through the drive-thru."
The restaurant said it plans to open 300 Cantina locations across the U.S. over the next five years, but said Boulder would be among the locations opening soon.
The chain already has opened 11 such locations, including a location in Newport Beach, Calif., that celebrated its opening earlier this month with a collaboration craft beer and Twisted Freezes.