Stapleton Tap House, which opened in 2013 as an oasis in the craft-beer desert that was the Stapleton neighborhood, will close on Friday, July 21. Tucked into a strip of eateries and shops at 8286 Northfield Boulevard, alongside the Harkins Northfield 18 movie theater, the small tap house will continue its regular hours until the closing date. Co-owner Michael Kearns's focus has been on introducing customers to small-batch craft beer made by breweries that they might not otherwise have heard of or had a chance to visit. At the time he opened the tap house, he called it the "Colorado craft-beer visitors' center" approach.
There are several reasons that Stapleton Tap House is closing, Kearns explains today: "When we opened four years ago, this wasn't our dream space. There's no outdoor seating area, there isn't any parking out front; it's not configured in the best way." He and his wife, Diana, had planned to move two years ago, but the space they were hoping for wasn't ready in time. And after that, other potential locations dried up as well.
"I love it out here in Stapleton," adds Kearns, who is also a real estate agent specializing in the neighborhood, "but we just don't have the foot traffic of being in a LoDo or RiNo and other areas where people are exploring."
Stapleton bar manager Justin Gill (left) and owners Michael Kearns and Diana Kearns (right) will say goodbye to the Tap House.
Stapleton Tap House Facebook page
Other, more complicated, factors affected the tap house as well. For starters, Kearns says, there were fewer than 100 breweries in Colorado when he opened, as opposed to more than 350 today. Back then, the breweries were looking for ways to get their beer out to more people. Today, breweries have many more outlets for sales, including other bars and restaurants that have finally come around to craft beer, and more convenient ways for breweries to package beer and sell it to go.
"When we opened, there were six craft-beer handles in Stapleton, I think," Kearns says. "Our bar manager, Justin, he recently counted over 200 these days." There are other breweries in the area now, too, including Station 26 Brewing, Cheluna Brewing, Ursula Brewery and Fiction Beer Company.
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Kearns says he has received some offers to move to other nearby locations, but he wants to sit back and watch what happens when it comes to competition and legislation in the craft-beer industry. One thing that would help small tap houses like his, he explains, would be the ability to sell beer to go, in glass growlers (as some other states already allow).
In the meantime, though, Kearns is going about the business of tapping his last kegs and returning tap handles, wall tackers and other items to breweries, and donating some of it to Pints for Prostates, which hosts the Denver Rare Beer Tasting every October, one of the marquee events surrounding the Great American Beer Festival.
"We’ve had a great run for the past four years, and it has been our pleasure to introduce so many beer drinkers to great Colorado (and recently some non-Colorado) craft beers," Kearns wrote on Facebook, announcing his bar's imminent closing.