ENGLEWOOD — Sanitas Brewing Co. has opened its second taproom in Englewood, marking the first of what could be a series of moves to expand the 10-year-old, Boulder-born concept throughout the Rocky Mountain region.
A second tap, rather than, say, an expansion in Sanitas’ retail sales footprint, plays to the brewery’s strengths, Sanitas co-founder and CEO Michael Memsic told BizWest.
“We do distribute, and our beers are found up and down the Front Range,” he said. “But what we’re best at is (operating) our taproom.”
Now Memsic and partner Chris Coyne are doing taproom operations both in Boulder, at Sanitas’ original location on Frontier Avenue, and in Englewood at 200 W. Belleview Ave., the 4,600-square-foot space with a 3.5-barrel brewing system that will mostly be used for research and development of new and experimental beer varietals.
The Belleview Avenue space also includes a “full kitchen and coffee shop kiosk” that will each be run not by Sanitas but by partner businesses Atlas Coffee, which has four other locations in the greater Denver area, and Boulder restaurateurs Bryan Dayton and Samuel McCandless, who plan to debut a new burger concept at the Englewood space, according to Memsic.
There are “very different” brewing scenes in Boulder and Englewood, where Sanitas is only the third brewery operating in the Arapahoe County community, Memsic said.
“We have a long-term vision for multiple locations throughout the West,” from Arizona to Montana. “But before we start jumping on airplanes, I want to make sure that we can succeed at this within driving distance. So we were looking throughout the Front Range and really targeting places that were not as dense” with competing operators. “Boulder has a lot of breweries in a very small space. …We have succeeded there, but it’s been challenging.”
Because the goal was opening up a second Sanitas in a less dense environment for breweries, areas such as the popular Denver neighborhood River North, or RINO, “was not attractive to us,” Memsic said. “We want to find communities that are in a growth phase where there are younger families. …There’s a lot of energy there that I’m excited about” in Englewood.
The Englewood scene is poised for growth, and Sanitas has a track record of success, but the team isn’t taking anything for granted.
“This is hard work, and we have to show up with an amazing product and a beautiful space,” Memsic said.
A plan to expand beyond Boulder began taking shape about four or five years ago, but “it’s not something you can just do overnight,” Memsic said. “These things are expensive and they take a lot of time.”
The brewery got “close on a deal in 2019,” but the lease fell through, he said. Sanitas leaders thought that “2020 is our year to hammer this. We said to ourselves that by the time 2020 is over, we’re going to have a second tap room. But obviously in March of 2020, we hit the brakes on all future planning.”
Perhaps surprisingly, given how the pandemic treated so many hospitality businesses, “COVID was really good to us” from a business and competition perspective, Memsic said.
“We created an extremely COVID-friendly space in the Boulder taproom before anyone had heard of COVID,” he said. Because the space was large and airy at about 8,000 square feet with a sizable outdoor patio, “it was easy for us to play by the rules when we had to change things with seating and spacing and masking. When everything was changing and evolving, we had a natural advantage over a lot of the (breweries). It’s not that we were good, we were lucky in that we did what we thought was the right thing to do from our inception,” rather than in reaction to the pandemic.
“We were very fortunate and worked really hard to do a great job” and be “really aggressive” in taking advantage of public business-support programs during 2020. “We helped ourselves. We could have been done, but we were able to survive.”
A year or so after the pandemic hit in earnest, Sanitas leaders “picked the conversation (about expansion) back up,” and in 2021 the brewery was again in talks with would-be landlords for the second taproom.
Eventually the stars aligned and Sanitas was able to ink its new Englewood taproom lease in April 2022.