Back in 1995, a growing brewpub company built a big, big restaurant on the edge of the Denver Tech Center. The C.B. & Potts outpost at 6575 South Greenwood Plaza Boulevard encompassed more than 12,000 square feet, and only a small portion of that was dedicated to brewing equipment. When the place closed in 2019, restaurateur Troy Guard saw something special in the building — something far more than just a solo restaurant.
That September, Guard announced that he and his business partners had purchased the building lock, stock and barrel (literally, since the old brewery left behind its oak beer-aging barrels) and were planning to turn it into a modern food hall with multiple counters and bars. While the COVID pandemic slowed progress on the project considerably, construction is now in full swing, and Guard expects to have the place, which he has named Grange Hall, open to the public this August.
The Grange (the shortened name of the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry) still exists today; in the late 1800s, it served as a nationwide social group for rural communities as well as a political advocacy group for agricultural workers. Guard says he was attracted to the name for his new venture because of its connections to socializing and sharing food. "Back in the day, when there were ranches and farms around here, there were Grange halls where farmers and ranchers and their families would gather," he explains. "It was a trading place and a social gathering place."
Looking out from the south-facing windows of Grange Hall, it's easy to envision rolling ranchland stretching from where a new patio will soon be installed all the way to Pikes Peak (visible in the distance even on a hazy day), even if the view is now dominated by the rooftops of housing developments and shopping centers. The building sits on the brow of a hill, so there's nothing blocking the vista (for now, it also includes a shuttered Macaroni Grill and the vacant parking lot of a Regal movie theater off Arapahoe Road). The new patio will seat about 75 guests, and an existing east-facing patio will add another thirty or so outdoor seats for a total of 2,500 square feet of open-air dining. On the south side, garage windows will be added to open the dining room onto the patio. A big parking lot is also part of the property; Guard plans to host outdoor events like markets, concerts and festivals there.
The interior of the hall is almost cathedral-like in its spaciousness and layout. Vaulted ceilings come to a peak above the main dining area and again above a T-shaped bar (the only interior design element that will remain relatively untouched). Brick pillars defy gravity in a wobbly pattern ascending toward the ceiling; the bricklayer's intentionally free-form design makes the pillars look ready to topple. Guard says they'll be washed in white paint to add more brightness to the space. And more than two stories above the floor, skylights are being cut in the ceilings to let in the sun.
Several food counters are currently being installed, only two of which will serve food from Guard's TAG Restaurant Group (TRG), a lineup that includes TAG, Los Chingones, TAG Burger Bar, Guard and Grace, Bubu, HashTAG and FNG. "I originally wanted to do all the food myself, because I love to cook, but we decided it would be more fun to give other cooks the opportunity and to give guests more variety," he explains.
One of Guard's contributions will be another location of Bubu, his fast-casual concept that serves grain and noodle bowls, and the other will be a thick-crust-pizza concept. The same demented bricklayer who created the pillars also built a brick fireplace and chimney that rises in wavy rows all the way to the ceiling; Guard is installing a pizza oven at its base to give the illusion that square-pan pizzas will be emerging straight from the massive hearth. "We've never done pizza at TRG," he admits, but he's been working on recipes that will be ready to go come August. The specialty will be pizza al taglio, a Roman style with a thick, airy crust baked on sheet trays. It will also serve other Italian-style bites and boards to provide more shareable options.
To the right of the double-doored entryway, a taqueria and a burger counter are planned, along with a space reserved for pop-ups. "I've never seen this done before," Guard says of the pop-up space. "I can do cooking demos there, or if chef friends are in town, they can do a couple of days there. Or someone from the community might have a really good idea that they want to share for a few days."
Past the first three stations will be a fried chicken concept, a central sushi bar, an ice cream and coffee counter, and a space that will likely serve barbecue. Most of the vendors haven't been nailed down yet, and Guard's still collecting applications. But he's already excited about the fried chicken concept: It will be Crack Shack, a San Diego-based company with six current locations in southern California and Las Vegas. This will be the first Colorado outpost for Crack Shack, which is known for saucy, spicy chicken sandwiches as well as whole fried birds.
Beyond the main food hall, a second room will offer even more seating. West-facing and surrounded by big windows, the room will probably be devoted to lounge seating and TVs.
Perhaps the most unusual feature will be Grange Hall's brewhouse. Guard admits he's not an expert in brewing, either, and says he's working with a "well-known, award-winning brewery" to handle beer production — though he's not ready to reveal the name. But new brewing equipment has already been purchased to augment the tanks that came with the building, and the outdoor grain silo will become part of the Grange's design theme. Two Denver artists, Cody Kuehl and Deb Craven, will create murals and other design elements that will extend throughout the food hall and onto the building's exterior, including the grain mill. The art will tell a visual history of the importance of the Grange to farmers and ranchers.
Guard notes that a new Arapahoe Entertainment District has been designated for the area, known more in the past for its office buildings than its nightlife possibilities. But Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre is located less than a block away, and in addition to the existing (though temporarily closed) movie theater, there's also a planned dining/entertainment complex complete with a bowling alley. New apartment buildings in the neighborhood have sprung up recently, and a light-rail station is within easy walking distance, too.
Guard's focus hasn't been solely dedicated to his upcoming food hall. He's also targeting June for the opening of a Fort Collins outpost of Los Chingones at 3541 East Harmony Road, and he also added Big Wave Taco to another food hall, Junction Food & Drink, last fall. Like Grange Hall, the Fort Collins Los Chingones will have expansive outdoor seating and murals from local artists.
Grange Hall may be a much different kind of gathering center than the farming and ranching spots of the past, but Guard is hoping to build a new kind of destination for the residents of these former prairies.
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