The COVID-19 pandemic makes it a scary time to open a new restaurant.
But that hasn’t stopped veteran restaurateur J.W. Roth from launching Buttermilk, A Breakfast Eatery, on Colorado Springs’ north side. Buttermilk opens at 6 a.m. Friday in the Bass Pro Shops-anchored Polaris Pointe retail center, southeast of Interstate 25 and North Gate Boulevard.
Buttermilk takes over a 4,000-square-foot building that formerly housed the Mikado Asian Bistro; the new restaurant is next to Roth’s Bourbon Brothers Smokehouse & Tavern and his Boot Barn Hall at Bourbon Brothers, a live-music venue.
“You have to be half crazy to do it,” Roth said. “I fit that description. That’s what it is. You have to be crazy to open a restaurant. It’s just unprecedented.”
Colorado’s restaurant dining rooms were ordered closed in mid-March by Gov. Jared Polis to help halt the spread of the coronavirus, although many restaurants continued to operate with takeout and delivery service.
After nearly 70 days, dining rooms were allowed to reopen in late May, but with limits of 50% of their seating capacity and no more than 50 diners at one time. That puts a strain on restaurants, which compete in an industry where profit margins are thin.
Buttermilk began as a real estate investment, Roth said. The Mikado building came up for sale and, because it was next door to Bourbon Brothers and Boot Barn Hall, he purchased it through a limited liability company in February.
Because there were only a few breakfast eateries in Monument to the north and just the Kneaders Bakery & Cafe in Polaris Pointe, Roth decided the Springs’ north side needed a true breakfast-themed restaurant. Omelets Etc., Snooze an AM Eatery and Urban Egg are among other north-side restaurants that specialize in breakfast.
Roth bills Buttermilk as a Southern-style dining spot, but with a contemporary menu. It offers traditional items such as biscuits and gravy, chicken and waffles, buttermilk pancakes and bread pudding French toast, along with breakfast tacos, huevos rancheros and other Southern border favorites. The menu also has lighter fare such as yogurt and granola, oats and a house garden salad.
For lunch, the all-day menu offers a turkey club sandwich, double cheeseburger and a BLT panini.
Buttermilk also features a full bar with breakfast cocktails and a coffee bar with espressos and other items in partnership with Mission Coffee Roasters, a north-side coffee shop.
In addition to indoor seating, Buttermilk features two patios that offer an additional 2,000 square feet with excellent mountain views, Roth said. The restaurant, which employs about 30 people to start, will be open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays through Sundays.
Though limits on indoor seating will make business tough, Roth said opening now will help Buttermilk establish a foothold in the market for what he hopes will be better times ahead.
“You’re opening these restaurants and you know going in that there is no way you can do the volume necessary to even break even,” Roth said. “So you’re doing this in hopes that down the road all of this proves to be a marketing sort of way to open a restaurant and get some name recognition and get some trial and that kind of thing, knowing you’re not going to make a lot of money.”