More than a year after Punch Bowl Social departed the former air traffic control tower at what was once Stapleton International Airport, a local aviation-themed brewery is arriving.
FlyteCo Brewing, which first opened at 4499 W. 38th Ave. in Berkeley in 2019, plans to open a second location in summer 2022 in the 17,000-square-foot space at 3120 N. Uinta St. in Central Park.
“We had definitely thought about opening another location and pursued it a little bit. But this, in our minds, was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go into a location that’s the penultimate expression of our brand,” said FlyteCo co-founder Morgan O’Sullivan.
The 164-foot tower attached to a three-story building is one of the most notable signs of the past in the Central Park neighborhood, which was built on the site of Stapleton International Airport. The airport was replaced in 1995 by Denver International Airport.
Punch Bowl Social — a Denver-based chain that combines a bar and restaurant with entertainment options like bowling and arcade games — opened in a portion of the building in 2017. But the location closed when the pandemic hit, and never reopened after the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The building, which sits on a 2-acre lot, sold last month for $8 million.
O’Sullivan said the new landlord approached FlyteCo while working to buy the building, since they had worked together before and the landlord felt their aviation theme would be the perfect fit.
“The incredible aviation history, specifically to Colorado, is obviously something we’re passionate about,” O’Sullivan said. “But we’re also excited for the unique opportunity to take over a space that’s incredibly built out and already been turned into an iconic restaurant destination.”
FlyteCo’s lease, which the owners signed at the beginning of this month, does not include the tower space. The future of the tower is unclear.
But the brewery is getting entertainment elements installed by Punch Bowl Social, such as the bowling lanes, karaoke rooms and mini golf, and plans to keep them operational for customers. The brewery will occupy two floors of the three-story building and have a seating capacity of 900.
O’Sullivan and his friends Eric Serani and Jason Slingsby, who are both pilots, opened FlyteCo just west of Tennyson Street in February 2019. It serves coffee and beer every day from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. The three met after Serani moved next door to O’Sullivan, and they started hosting large parties with Slingsby and Serani’s homebrewed beer.
The aviation theme is clear throughout the 5,000-square-foot Berkeley space. A massive fuselage hangs over the main seating area.
O’Sullivan said the owners hope to highlight the history of aviation throughout their new location as well, which is a little more than a half mile away from United Airlines Flight Training Center, the world’s largest airline training facility, according to its website.
Chord Design Studios, which is also owned by a pilot, will be redesigning the new space.
FlyteCo’s new space will have aviation-themed cocktails, a traditional brewpub food menu, and of course, beer. It will also serve coffee in the mornings.
“We’re not looking to create a late-night vibe; we want this to be more of an all-day family destination,” O’Sullivan said.
Despite making the leap from a 5,000-square-foot space to a 17,000-square-foot space, he said the company is prepared and looking for a general manager that has experience running large-scale operations like this.
“In our minds, the jump from homebrew to where we are today is larger than the jump from our current location to the control tower,” O’Sullivan said. “We were essentially three unknown individuals with a startup that, for lack of a better term, dumped their backyard home brewing system into a commercial system in one of the most competitive neighborhoods in Denver’s brewing scene. So, although this is another very large leap, for us that leap is not as large as the one we already did.”
With this new location, O’Sullivan added that he hopes the larger footprint will give the brand a chance to expand distribution outside of Denver. FlyteCo currently distributes beer to a small group of local bars and restaurants throughout the city.
“One of the reasons behind this new location is the level of brand recognition that will come from a project like this, and it will pave the way for some additional distribution,” O’Sullivan said.