By Rich Laden
Updated: September 6, 2017 at 12:24 pm • Published: September 5, 2017
One of northern Colorado's more popular entertainment concepts will make its Colorado Springs debut in a few weeks.
Oskar Blues, the Longmont-based restaurant, craft beer brewer and music venue, plans to open in late September in the DeGraff Building at 118 N. Tejon St. downtown, said Jason Rogers, a chef and partner with Oskar Blues' restaurant arm.
It's taking over space that had been occupied for 33 years by Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom, which didn't renew its lease and moved out in July 2016.
Oskar Blues had targeted a June opening, but construction and remodeling have continued through the summer, Rogers said. There haven't been any surprises - just lots of work, he said.
"It's a big project, and there's just a lot of things to do and just trying to time out all those things," he said. "It's not like building a pre-fab house where you know exactly your timing."
Customers familiar with Old Chicago might not recognize the new digs, which crews were busy working on last week. Oskar Blues, to employ 90 full- and part-time people, will occupy 15,600 square feet - Old Chicago's first level and a basement that previously was used only for offices and storage.
The venue is about twice as large as other Oskar Blues locations, with seating for 400 people and space for a total of 700, said Brian Mark, Oskar Blues' general manager in Colorado Springs.
"This is quite an undertaking," he said of the remodeling.
According to Mark, changes to the former Old Chicago space include:
- The gutted first level will have a new bar moved to the center of the floor. The bar, along with a second one in the basement, will feature 46 beers and two wine taps.
- A new kitchen will serve locally sourced meats, grilled burgers, New Orleans-style grilled oysters and seafood, among items. Remodeled bathrooms, new booths and tables and an open area that looks down to the basement also will be part of the first floor.
- A dropped ceiling has been removed to expose ductwork; a remodeled, enlarged patio behind the building will be accessible through new accordion doors cut into a brick wall. New lighting, plumbing and electrical systems also have been installed.
- A new staircase leads to the basement, which will feature the second bar, seating, a music area, video games, two pool tables, two bocce ball courts and new washrooms.
"We're going to treat the downstairs more like a waiting room," Mark said. "Go downstairs, grab a beer, grab an appetizer, play some games and come up when your table's ready."
Mark declined to disclose the remodeling cost, other than to say it was significant; when Rogers first discussed Oskar Blues' expansion to the Springs earlier this year, he said the upgrades would top $1 million.
"It was important for us to bring something to Colorado Springs that isn't like anything else that's down here," Mark said. "We wanted to be friendly to every group, meaning families, business people. There's a place in this restaurant where they can find a home and actually have quiet, or be down here and be part of the party."
Oskar Blues was founded in 1997 by Dale Katechis in Lyons, north of Boulder. It introduced craft beer in a can, and Dale's Pale Ale - named for its founder - is its flagship brew.
Oskar Blues operates a two-pronged business - food and beer; other Oskar Blues restaurants are in northern Colorado, and its breweries operate in three states.