Thanksgiving could see Jorge’s being reopened

       Remodeling his restaurant this year has been a long and expensive saga for Jorge Ayala. With the interior remodel of Jorge's finally getting past the demolition and utility stages and stucco being applied to the facade, he predicted last week that he was “shooting for Thanksgiving weekend” to reopen. Then he paused and added: “But I've been trying for every weekend since June.”

Stucco was being applied to the Jorge's facade earlier this week. The work has since been completed, exposing the new look.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The delays have largely stemmed from the 110-year age of the Old Colorado City building. Sometimes local government inspectors seemed overly regulatory, but it was also true that beyond such oversight “my guys ran into problem after problem,” Ayala said. “Once they started tearing into it, they started finding things that people in the past didn't do or did illegally.”
       An example of the latter was the discovery that about 40 years ago, an old chimney was removed and shored up with just a cross-member. “You could see where it was cracking on the bottom,” he said. Other unexpected problems were in the basement stairwell, where steel beams had to be installed to improve the building support; and in the main floor, which revealed three floor levels but is now one layer of cement.
       His contractor's original bid was $490,000, but the cost will total about $540,000 when it's done, Ayala said. “My guy is slow but meticulous, but I'd rather he be that way.”

Jorge Ayala

       Another sign of progress this week was the unveiling of the two-story building's new gold and brown stucco front, which Ayala described as “old Spanish style.” Although Old Colorado City is a historic district, city officials have told him he is under no constraints to preserve the previous look from the 1950s because it represented “nothing historic,” he said. “Once they [previous owners] redid it, that took away the historic value.”
       Ayala had temporarily closed in February with the idea of taking a few months to redo the kitchen, bar, bathrooms and façade, and implement minor improvements to the dining area.
       The long project has been tough to deal with. “My little restaurant in Pueblo is keeping me alive,” he said. As for his employees here, they've been on unemployment. “It's been a hardship for everybody, but we will get most of our folks back.”
       The owner of a successful Mexican-food place that he started in Pueblo in 1983, Ayala bought the then-closed restaurant at 2427 W. Colorado Ave. in 2007. For over a half-century, it had been a Westside landmark, called Henri's.
       During his first year and a half in the location Ayala offered a nod to the past by calling the restaurant “Henri's by Jorge's,” before shortening it to “Jorge's” in fall 2008.
       The remodeling project has given him a new chance to keep the Henri's legacy alive in another way. When Henri and Ventura Ruiz owned the place, a member of their family had painted murals on the inside walls. Ayala had to scrap those walls because they had asbestos and lead paint. But first he took photos of the murals and now he plans to make posters from them, to sell to people who remember the earlier restaurant and would like such memorabilia, he said.

Westside Pioneer article