One of the original partners of the Bitter Bar has purchased the downtown Boulder cocktail bar from co-owner Big Red F Restaurant Group.

James Lee, who started with Boulder-based Big Red F in 1998, acquired the remaining ownership stake for $400,000 in a transaction that closed Monday, he said.

The Bitter Bar, 835 Walnut St., also temporarily closed its doors Monday in advance of plans to spruce up and organize the bar and install a refrigerated deli case for prepared foods such as sandwiches and desserts.

The Bitter Bar is expected to reopen on May 1.

"I want to create a craft cocktail bar where no reservations are needed," Lee said, referencing the restaurant side of the business. "We want to clarify that and make it black-and-white, and define our identity."

Instead of offering small plates and entrees of contemporary American fare, the new Bitter Bar will have pre-made items such as sandwiches, cured meats and desserts. The majority of those items will come from former "Top Chef" Hosea Rosenberg's Blackbelly Catering, Lee said, adding that Rosenberg will utilize the Bitter Bar's kitchen.

Dave Query, Big Red F's owner, lauded Lee's accomplishments in the craft cocktail and mixology movements, adding that the transaction was "fantastic for him and fantastic for us."

"James always wanted to own it outright; that was the conversation we had (early on) that some day he would buy us out," Query said. "He has great ideas to change it, evolve it. I think it's going to be the best version ever of the Bitter Bar."


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Lee was a partner in the opening of Happy Noodle at 835 Walnut St. in 2009. Happy Noodle was an Asian noodle house by day and the Bitter Bar, a speakeasy-like cocktail bar, from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Happy Noodle closed and adopted the concept of its nighttime alter-ego in 2011.

"Everybody loved it, and it just kind of opened the floodgates," Lee said. "Five years later, I'm buying out the Bitter Bar."

Contact Camera Business Writer Alicia Wallace at 303-473-1332 or wallacea@dailycamera.com.