Openings and Closings

One of Denver's Most Ambitious Restaurant Projects Will Not Reopen

Punch Bowl Social Stapleton is permanently grounded.
Punch Bowl Social Stapleton is permanently grounded. Amber Boutwell
Punch Bowl Social Stapleton, one of the most ambitious restaurant projects ever to hit Denver, will not reopen at 3120 Uinta Street after closing on March 15 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Punch Bowl Social founder Robert Thompson first announced his plans to turn the abandoned Stapleton International Airport air-traffic control tower into a restaurant and entertainment center in March 2015, and after millions of dollars in construction and nearly three years of work, the impressive structure opened to the public in November 2017, with multiple bars, dining areas, bowling alleys, karaoke rooms and lots of space for shuffleboard, darts, foosball and video games.

But the pandemic put an end to the fun and games in Stapleton, and lease negotiations didn't work out, so the building is now vacant. "In this new reality, landlords cannot expect to maintain status quo economic terms that were negotiated in pre-pandemic times," Thompson said in a statement. "We appreciate that landlords are trying to ensure the success of their businesses; however, we were unable to reach satisfactory new terms to move forward with our Stapleton, Colorado and Schaumburg, Illinois landlord. As such, we determined it was in Punch Bowl Social’s best interest to sever ties. We will not be re-opening either of the locations but are looking forward to welcoming guests in the future to our original downtown Denver - South Broadway and downtown Chicago - West Loop locations which serve both of those markets."

So while PBS Stapleton is gone forever, the company plans to reopen its flagship at 65 Broadway, which debuted in 2012 and has also been shuttered since shortly before the state ordered all restaurants to close to on-premises dining in March. "Punch Bowl Social is a lifestyle brand that transcends a single location," Thompson added. "When we re-open across the country, we will do so smartly and with partners who are in it with us. Moving forward, we will only be working with landlords with whom we can establish suitable and mutually beneficial terms.”

click to enlarge The original Punch Bowl Social on Broadway is expected to reopen. - WESTWORD
The original Punch Bowl Social on Broadway is expected to reopen.
Over the past eight years, Thompson has built up the Punch Bowl Social brand to more than fifteen locations throughout the U.S. Last summer, the company announced a partnership with Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc., but that deal ended in March, when Cracker Barrel decided to focus on its core restaurants rather than continuing to invest in Punch Bowl Social.

Thompson has not announced the exact timing of the reopening of the Broadway Punch Bowl Social, or what it will look like to customers, since current Colorado restrictions limit dining room capacity to 50 percent or fifty customers, whichever is smaller, with no games allowed. And as one of the top experiential restaurant/bar concepts in the city, PBS wasn't built for take-home business.

The control tower at Stapleton saw its last flights come in to Denver in 1995, and the building sat unused for twenty years before Punch Bowl Social came in. With operations grounded once more, it could be some time before things take off there again.
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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation