The Bourbon Brothers Southern Kitchen restaurant on Colorado Springs' north side has been open only since Monday, but its owners already are planning an aggressive expansion to develop 40 of the restaurants around the country over the next five years.
An important step in that plan: A merger announced Wednesday between the private company that developed Bourbon Brothers Southern Kitchen and the publicly owned firm that developed Southern Hospitality Restaurant and Bar in Denver's Lower Downtown area.
The merger, which had been in the works since September, establishes the newly created Springs-based Bourbon Brothers Holding Corp. as a public entity to operate the two existing restaurants and spearhead development of future Bourbon Brothers locations. Bourbon Brothers founder J.W. Roth, an investor and board member in the company that developed Southern Hospitality, will serve as chairman of the new holding corporation.
The corporation will trade under the stock symbol RIBS, which had been the symbol for Smokin Concepts Development Corp., the restaurant group that previously managed Southern Hospitality in Denver.
The merger will raise the profile of the Bourbon Brothers restaurant when its owners seek to expand and potentially partner with real estate companies in other cities, said Mitchell Roth, J.W.'s son and corporate development associate in the new entity.
Bourbon Brothers' expansion plans start with a second Colorado Springs restaurant and perhaps five to six locations around the state before more restaurants are added nationwide, Roth said.
Bourbon Brothers Southern Kitchen was built on 1.5 acres near outdoor apparel and equipment giant Bass Pro Shops in the Copper Ridge at Northgate retail center, southeast of Interstate 25 and North Gate Boulevard. It's an upscale, casual-dining restaurant that primarily serves family-style, southern entrees and appetizers, Roth said. Another feature: A separate bar area, called the "bourbon room," with more than 100 brands of bourbon from around the country.
Additional plans call for construction of a 250- to 300-person outdoor amphitheater, with sloped grassy seating, that would host live music, farmers' markets and other events. It is scheduled to open at the end of spring or in early summer, Roth said.
The amphitheater would link the Southern Kitchen to a second restaurant - the two-story Bourbon Brothers Seafood & Chophouse, he said. Construction on that restaurant is targeted to begin in 90 days, with a fall opening. The fine-dining restaurant would be comparable to MacKenzie's Chop House and The Famous Steak House in downtown, Roth said.
Bourbon Brothers already has raised $7.5 million from investors to finance the land acquisition, building construction and purchase of furniture, fixtures and equipment for its seafood and chophouse.
The Southern Kitchen's proximity to Bass Pro will serve as a model for expansion; Bourbon Brothers' owners plan to locate their Southern Kitchens near Bass Pro and rival Cabela's, Roth said.
"We think there's a synergy between Bourbon Brothers Southern Kitchen and Bass Pro or Cabela's," he said. "The average shopper at Bass Pro, we feel, is the right customer for a southern-style, home-cooking type of concept. It would be different if we were following Nordstrom."
Bourbon Brothers' owners hope to acquire four to five parcels in Colorado this year in markets such as Denver, Lonetree and Loveland, build and open the additional Southern Kitchens by the end of the second quarter of 2015 and fine tune the concept, Roth said.
The owners then would move forward on a broader expansion over 60 months, seeking to partner with real estate companies around the country who would develop land where restaurants would be built, he said. Although Bourbon Brothers is a public entity, whose stock is held by about 200 individual and institutional investors, its owners plan to pursue conventional bank financing as a funding source because of current low interest rates, he said.
Roth acknowledged some skeptics might question whether the expansion is realistic. But, he said, Bourbon Brothers owners are confident that low borrowing rates and partnerships with developers, along with the restaurant concept, will fuel their growth plans.
The owners also have a third concept they call the Bourbon Brothers Tavern, which they're targeting for college towns, he said. It would be similar to the barbeque-themed and southern-style Southern Hospitality Restaurant and Bar.
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