Stepping Out: Fleetside caters to Greeley market

GREELEY – This city’s slightly anemic restaurant scene received a shot in the arm July 31 with the opening of Fleetside Pub and Brewing.

A relative of the immensely popular CooperSmith’s Pub and Brewing in Fort Collins, Fleetside is located at 721 10th St. downtown.

Fleetside was opened by the same four partners who operate CooperSmith’s, with the addition of three Greeley partners. They have recruited approximately 28 investors.

I sat with operating partner Mark Sluss one evening as he explained what it took to open Fleetside.

Sluss said the restaurant resulted from a complete overhaul of the Edwards Chevrolet building, named for the Chevrolet Fleetside, the first pickup truck manufactured without running boards. The building alone is worth a visit. About $1.8 million went into the purchase and remarkable transformation of the old garage.

The results must be gratifying. The high ceilings, windows and open spaces give the brewpub a warehouse feel, light and airy. They still refer to the different rooms as bays, a tip of the cap to the building’s previous occupants.

The bar, furniture and railings use industrial and automotive materials to adhere to an overall concept that’s so retro it looks progressive. That is not to say Fleetside is over the top in the kitsch department. It is wholly unique.

Keeping the industrial feel of the old automotive building was intended to underscore the hand-crafted food and beer Fleetside produces.

The kitchen and brewery are all open to allow the dining public to view the workers doing their thing.

The design was done by The Architects Studio, and the general contractor was Drahota Construction. Graphics were provided by Invision Design of Fort Collins.

Sluss told me that a lot of the idea-generation should be attributed to three of the Fleetside principals: Scott Smith, Brad Page and Mary Lou Wysnand.

Fleetside seats 395 people, including the 26 tables on the patio. Yes, that is indeed huge. Sluss told me five more seats would have required them to get an arena license from Weld County. With 16,000 square feet in use and another 4,000 available for expansion, it’s a wonder the place doesn’t have its own weather systems.

A 40-seat private banquet room is available for various functions, and there are four championship pool tables availably by the hour.

Sluss said the opening-day menu was created by Theo Otte and head chief Pat “Gonzo” Gonzales, and that it will evolve as customer preferences make themselves known. Gonzales was a chef at the Wynkoop Brewing Co. in Denver before coming to Greeley.

The menu tilts toward the meat and potatoes side of the spectrum in deference to Greeley’s dominant industry. Sluss suspected that the 17 vegetarian items offered at CooperSmith’s wouldn’t receive nearly as warm a reception at Fleetside.

The grains and beers from the brewing side of the restaurant find their way into the kitchen’s food, and an on-site bakery makes all the breads.

The bar side of the establishment focuses on the home-made ales, of course, but they also offer a fully stocked bar and 35 single-malt scotches (Mmmmmmmm … Talisker …)

Fleetside plans to have at least seven beers available at any one time, with the regular beers joining seasonal specialty brews.

Fans of CooperSmith’s irreplaceable green chili beer will be happy to know that Gonzo’s Green Chili ale will be on tap.

Fleetside’s marketing strategy has so far been limited to word of mouth, but Sluss said they plan on soon advertising in the Union Colony Civic Center programs, promoting their late-night offerings.

Sluss said the city of Greeley was extremely easy to deal with in opening the business. Officials appear committed to the revitalization of downtown and proved it by paving a 125-car parking lot out in front of Fleetside as an incentive for the location.

The popular Rio Grande and Armadillo restaurants are also opening in downtown Greeley. And it’s beginning to look like the day that Fort Collins residents begin driving to Greeley for dinner – instead of the other way around – isn’t too far away.