Beer Man

Old Chicago Will Make a High-Profile Return to Downtown Denver in 2022

An Old Chicago will return to downtown.
An Old Chicago will return to downtown. Westword file photo
Eight years after closing its landmark location at 14th and Market streets, Old Chicago Pizza + Taproom will finally make its long-awaited return to downtown Denver with a new restaurant in the former Fadó Irish Pub space, at 1735 19th Street, just steps from Coors Field.

With a large indoor dining room and a double-decker patio, the eatery will be able to seat more than 500 people. Old Chicago hopes to hire sixty employees and open in time for the beginning of baseball season in April, though the company says that time frame may have to be pushed back.

“We are very excited to be coming back to downtown Denver, across from McGregor Square. The space is going to be amazing," says Josh Kern, spokesman for SPB Hospitality, which owns the Old Chicago, Rock Bottom and ChopHouse chains, among others. "Overall, [it] will be a great spot to catch sports on TV, enjoy our amazing pizzas and ice-cold beer or cocktails right in the middle of downtown’s action."

In addition to Old Chicago's well-known menu, its famed World Beer Tour and 110 taps (many of which will pour Colorado beers), the restaurant plans to serve some of the items from its ghost brands "in a unique way," Kern adds. Ghost brands are food concepts that many restaurants, both big and small, started up during the pandemic to act as to-go only options on food-ordering apps.
click to enlarge Old Chicago will take over the former Fado Irish Pub. - WESTWORD
Old Chicago will take over the former Fado Irish Pub.
The space is next door to the Denver ChopHouse, a 27-year-old restaurant and brewery located inside the historic Union Pacific building ,which is set to undergo a renovation. In addition, SPB will add a high-end cocktail lounge below the ChopHouse called Lost & Found: underground cocktails + curiosities. That space was formerly occupied by Howl at the Moon. It is slated to open this spring.

The entire building was purchased just two weeks ago, on December 17, for $25.5 million by Dallas-based L&B Realty Acquisitions LLC, according to Cushman & Wakefield, which represented the seller, Thermo Union Pacific LLC. Part of the 36,441-square-foot brick structure was built in 1923 to serve as the Union Pacific Railroad Signal Master’s Head House.

Once the beer starts flowing, it will be a triumphant moment for Old Chicago, which was founded by restaurateur Frank Day in Boulder in 1976 and operated the Market Street flagship from 1992 to 2014. Day also founded and built the ChopHouse and Rock Bottom chains.

In the intervening eight years, Old Chicago, which currently has dozens of locations in multiple states, went through a couple of refreshes and rebrandings before its previous parent company, Craftworks, filed for bankruptcy just as the pandemic began in March 2020 and temporarily closed all of its locations. Craftworks was formed in 2010 when Day sold the businesses to an investment group.
Old Chicago's former location at 14th and Market streets closed in 2014. - CASSANDRA KOTNIK
Old Chicago's former location at 14th and Market streets closed in 2014.
Cassandra Kotnik
In July 2020, SPB, which owns other restaurant chains across the country, bought Craftworks out of bankruptcy and began reopening some, but not all of the locations. One of the restaurants that didn't reopen was the immensely popular one at 1280 South Colorado Boulevard.

But Kern says there is cause for rejoicing on that front, as well. "We're also opening another Old Chicago on South Colorado and I-25. This will be a ground-up build and will be on the site of the closed Village Inn," he says. "We're excited for the brand — and these two openings, along with several corporate and franchisee locations, is a clear indicator of the health and longevity of Old Chicago Pizza + Taproom.”

Old Chicago currently has ten locations in the metro area and another seven in the rest of the state.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes