Mike Bristol initially turned down a request that his brewery take over the largest restaurant in the passenger terminal at the Colorado Springs Airport.
SSP America, which operates seven restaurants and fast-food outlets at the airport, had asked him more than a year ago to form a partnership to rebrand the restaurant just outside the security checkpoint under the Bristol name, replacing the Gordon Biersch Restaurant and Brewery that operated there since 2005.
“I saw how it had worked with the Gordon Biersch brand and I wasn’t interested in hanging our sign on the same old tired restaurant,” Bristol said. “I wanted to bring a local flavor to the restaurant, and as (SSP executive) Tom Waldron told me how they did that in other locations and told me we would be full partners with full control over how our brand is presented, we conceptually came to an agreement.”
The $300,000 conversion to turn the restaurant into The Bristol Taproom was delayed by several months to coincide with renovation and expansion of the checkpoint to make room for new passenger scanning equipment, but was completed about a month ago. The Taproom and the adjacent coffee shop, operated by Denver-based Novo Coffee, will celebrate their grand openings from 4-6 p.m. Thursday. Novo replaced an A&W fast-food restaurant as part of the remodeling project, which will continue later this year with the five restaurants beyond the checkpoint.
Amanda Bristol, Mike Bristol’s wife and brewery co-owner, reworked the menu to give it a local flavor with items such as America the Beautiful Breakfast, Barr Trail Burgers, Bear Creek Breakfast Burrito, Briargate Lettuce Wrap, the Garden of the Gods Salad, Manitou Springs and Pikes Peak salads and the Spencer Penrose and Winfield Scott Stratton sandwiches. Several menu items also are named for Bristol beers.
Waldron, who is SSP’s senior director of business development, said he approached Bristol about the partnership after talking to many Springs area residents about what brands they wanted to see at the airport, in keeping with the company’s strategy to incorporate a variety of local brands into its airport and rail station restaurants. The British-owned company, which operates restaurants in more than 140 airports and more than 250 rail stations worldwide, also plans to rebrand some or all of the restaurants beyond the security checkpoint through partnerships with local restaurants, he said.
“We want to give a boost to the local economy by giving exposure to local brands,” Waldron said. “It gives passengers an opportunity to experience the city before ever leaving the airport. Our goal is the look for premium local brands, and we felt that both Bristol and Novo are dedicated to quality.”
Bristol will serve six of its beers at the Taproom that are brewed at the brewery now located on Tejon Street. The brewery is scheduled to move in April to the former Ivywild School a few blocks away as part of an expansion that will triple its size and brewing capacity, which is currently about 10,000 barrels a year, Mike Bristol said. Both locations will feature similar decor and signs, including corrugated metal attached to the front of the bar, shuffleboard tables for patrons, wooden tables and chairs and blackboards listing the available beers, he said.
Mike Bristol said he also is working with airport officials to arrange parking validation for neighbors and workers from the airport’s Cresterra business park and other nearby businesses who visit the Taproom.
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