Cafe Society

Exclusive: Robert Thompson opening Argyll Whisky Beer in the Las Margaritas space in Uptown

Back in 2011, when Robert Thompson shuttered Argyll in Cherry Creek, the plan, he told me, was to reopen the gastropub in Baker. Instead, Thompson, a prolific restaurateur and the founder of Seasoned Development, a restaurant group that designs, develops and manages restaurant concepts, graced the ubranized 'hood with Punch Bowl Social Food & Drink, a modern diner, mixology and bowling concept that has since gone national. In the time that Argyll closed, Thompson also opened Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar in the downtown theater district, but Argyll, a gastropub that Thompson calls the "booster rocket that got the shuttle off the ground," has always been at the forefront of his mind, and next year, in April or May, he'll open Argyll Whisky Beer in Uptown, in the Las Margaritas space on Seventeenth Avenue's booming restaurant row.

See also: Photos: Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar's John Broening on his new fall menu

"We've been looking for a perfect location to open a new Argyll for a long time -- almost two years -- and we've walked away from some good deals but not deals that we're good enough, until we found this one," says Thompson, who signed the lease earlier today.

The original Argyll, says Thompson, who spent several years outside of the industry, was "my reintroduction back into the Denver restaurant scene, so it's really special to me, and it catapulted my company so that I could work on the new concepts I'm working on today," he adds. "I opened it during a recession, I put all the capital I had left into making it work, not to mention my blood, sweat and tears, but ultimately, it just wasn't the right location."

For one thing, Argyll squatted in a relatively small, subterranean space that didn't have a visible street presence, but there were other factors, too, that convinced him to shutter it. "We were in a basement, we didn't have a meaningful bar where people could wait for a table, and people in Cherry Creek tend to stop eating and drinking once the clock hits 9 p.m.," explains Thompson. More important, he stresses, was the fact that Argyll simply didn't have the space to handle the crowds at peak hours. "On Friday and Saturday nights, we'd have as many people on the wait list as there were people dining, and if you don't have the space to accommodate those people, then you're going to lose business," he notes.

The Las Margaritas plot, on the other hand, is 5,000 square feet and sits squarely on a corner that sees a heavy flow of foot traffic. Plus, it's in a neighborhood that swells with a younger demographic -- a demographic that doesn't subscribe to a 10 p.m. bedtime ritual. "The key word in gastropub is fucking 'pub,'" quips Thompson, and Argyll Whisky Beer, which will pour libations until 2 a.m. on the weekends, will undoubtedly encounter a thump of late-night revelers -- at least that's what Thompson is betting on. "I think locals will treat us as their local bar, and a huge part of a gastropub is the drinking element, and unlike in Cherry Creek, this is a neighborhood where people like to be at a bar at 2 a.m," says Thompson. "It's in a location that makes a lot more sense than Cherry Creek."

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson

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