Last fall was tough for restaurants, as rising COVID cases led to dining rooms moving from 50 percent occupancy to 25 percent and then to zero between October and the end of November. In Fort Collins, chef/restaurateur Dave Query's Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar, at 123 North College Avenue, was in the same boat as every other eatery, but switching to takeout and delivery wasn't a great option, fresh seafood being what it is. So Query turned to one of his other restaurants, the Post Brewing Co., for inspiration, adding its fried chicken-heavy menu as a ghost kitchen operating out of Jax.
"We wanted to get people eating the chicken and get them excited about it," Query recalls. The operation proved so successful that he's now building a permanent Fort Collins Post Brewing Co. in a former IHOP at 1002 South College Avenue. "That IHOP is iconic in Fort Collins," he adds. "But it's been vacant for a year or more."
The A-frame IHOP opened in 1974 on South College, but called it quits in late 2018, long before the pandemic hit. Query says it will be fun to re-envision the building into a new restaurant in keeping with the Post's other branches. "The Longmont Post used to be a Pizza Hut, and the Denver one [in the Rosedale neighborhood] was a Mr. Steak," he explains. "So clearly, we're running around grabbing up all these iconic restaurant buildings."
Query points out that the dining room of the new location, which totals 3,000 square feet, is fairly small, so he's planning to add a large patio on the south side of the building and possibly a smaller one on the north side, depending on what the city will allow. And like the other Post locations (there are currently four, including the original in Lafayette and the newest in Boulder), this one will offer delivery service staffed by the restaurant instead of through a third-party company. "We're going to do it with a lot more intention and care than what the delivery companies do," Query says, adding that the setup also allows the Post to deliver alcoholic beverages, something that delivery companies don't do.
Query and chef/partner Brett Smith opened the original Post Brewing Co. in a former Lafayette VFW post in 2014, offering fried chicken that's always gluten-free as well as a line of house-brewed beers. Along with the Fort Collins outpost (which will tap into the town's excellent beers to supplement the house brands), Query is also working on opening another Post in a former carriage house on the property of the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. Both are expected to open later this year.
His Big Red F Restaurant Group also operates Lola Coastal Mexican in Denver, the West End Tavern and Centro Mexican Kitchen in Boulder, and six Jax Fish House locations in Colorado and Kansas City, Missouri.
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