Beer Man

Rock Bottom/Old Chicago Parent Files for Bankruptcy, Closes Locations

Rock Bottom/Old Chicago Parent Files for Bankruptcy, Closes Locations
Old Chicago
Craftworks Holdings, the holding company for the Colorado-created Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery and Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom chains, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on March 3 — a move that came in the same week that the struggling enterprise has closed several locations nationwide, including the Rock Bottom on Orchard Parkway in Westminster and the Old Chicago in Longmont.

The company, which owns around 330 breweries and restaurants in more than three dozen states, listed both assets and liabilities of between $100 million and $500 million, according to multiple reports. But Craftworks also agreed to a deal with one of its investors that will reduce its debt significantly.

“Over the past 16 months, we have made significant progress on many fronts to transform our business and position our brands for long-term growth and success,” Craftworks CEO Hazem Ouf said in a statement.

"As a further step forward in our transformation, we exited in recent weeks a select group of our locations that were our poorest performers. We are now looking forward to completing an expedited process that we are confident puts our business on solid financial footing for the future," he added.

Rock Bottom Restaurants
Although Craftworks is now based in Nashville, it was created in Broomfield in 2010 by the merger of the Rock Bottom and Gordon Biersch brewpub chains.

Rock Bottom was founded in 1991 in Denver at the base of the Prudential Building by Boulder restaurateur Frank Day, who was one of the early pioneers of craft brewing in Colorado. He also founded Boulder's storied but now-closed Walnut Brewery, the ChopHouse in Denver and the Old Chicago chain. Day's wife, Gina, is the longtime owner of Boulder Beer Company, which closed the doors to its pub in February.

By 2010, Day had built the brands into one of the largest craft-beer-focused restaurant and brewery companies in the nation. Rock Bottom's merger with Tennessee-based Gordon Biersch that year was financed by a $150 million investment arranged and led by Centerbridge Capital Partners, a $12 billion money management firm.

The resulting company, Craftworks, continued to split its headquarters between Colorado and Tennessee, but in 2019 consolidated its operations in Tennessee. Day, who was chairman of the board, has since retired from that company, but still owns a separate enterprise called Concept Restaurants, which includes a number of well-known local eateries, including Humboldt, Stout Street Social and Table Mountain Inn.
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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes