After a half-century of beer and bar food, a Bonnie Brae icon is graduating to a more upscale concept.
Real estate company St. Charles Town Co. and restaurateur Dan Landes are polishing up the Campus Lounge on University Boulevard in hopes of debuting a new restaurant under the same name early next year.
It plans about $500,000 in renovations, but St. Charles Town Co. head Charlie Woolley said to expect most of the restaurant’s familiar features to stick around.
“The spirit of it is that it is still the Campus Lounge, and when you walk in you will see a lot of the vestiges of the Campus Lounge without about 44 years of grit,” Woolley said. “But the horseshoe bar, the booths, the Campus Lounge Sign, all of those will be prominent.”
Landes owns City O’ City and previously ran WaterCourse Foods on 17th Avenue before selling that restaurant last year. Woolley is a real estate developer whose St. Charles Town Co. also is working on a new affordable housing project at a former trailer park on Morrison Road.
Both hold a stake in both the forthcoming restaurant business and the Campus Lounge building, which they bought in September for $1.9 million. Woolley said the total project budget, including acquisition costs, would hover around $2.4 million.
The Campus Lounge was a dive bar at the corner of Exposition Avenue and University Boulevard that dished out bar food, beer and mixed drinks for 44 years before closing in September.
By that time, Woolley was already working on a deal to acquire the real estate from the bar’s previous owner, Jim Wiste. He said he contacted Wiste mid-summer before closing the deal at the end of September.
“It was a pretty short fuse, and we had to do a lot of work pretty quickly,” Woolley said. “We wanted to get the timing right so he could say goodbye to all of his customers while we figured out what we would do with a place that basically hadn’t changed in 44 years.”
With the real estate lined up, Woolley then got in touch with Landes through a mutual friend. Woolley said he was impressed with what Landes had done with City O’ City, a restaurant he said was bringing in phenomenal revenues and seemed to have meshed very well in its Cap Hill neighborhood.
Landes, meanwhile, wasn’t looking for another restaurant. He said that he gets several pitches to put new restaurants in hip parts of town each month, but hardly looks at most of them because he’s not interested in growing too quickly right now.
But the Campus Lounge stuck out.
“The second I heard the Campus Lounge would be bought, and I was asked to meet with the developers, I didn’t hesitate,” he said. “It’s just got all of the elements: the right capacity to get a return on investment, the right neighborhood to support it, a big kitchen and plenty of basement space.”
Landes is also venturing away from vegetarian – teaming up with local chef Brendon Doyle to put together a menu that could include chicken, beef, goat, bison and other meats.
Landes estimated sandwiches would start at $11 and full entrees could run up to $27. That’s a moving target, Landes said, as they work with potential suppliers around Colorado to fine-tune the food and bar menus.
Josh Comfort is the architect handling the redesign for Campus Lounge. Rawlins National Bank is providing a loan to finance the project.
The Campus Lounge building also came with three retail storefronts fronting Exposition Avenue that house a travel agency, salon and attorney’s office. Those tenants will stay put for now, Woolley said, though the entire building is due for a fresh face.
“We’re going to end up doing a full renovation, and obviously it’s much easier to keep a tenant in place if you can,” he said. “But we’re talking to them about the future and it looks like, for the most part, they all want to stay.”