A view of the Sunset Lounge, which sits atop The Elizabeth Hotel in historic Old Town in downtown Fort Collins. The Sunset Lounge features all-weather and open-air lounge areas, with a unique outdoor space that provides beautiful Front Range mountain views. Joel Blocker / for BizWest

Restaurants, bars expand offerings with rooftop patios

A few Northern Colorado restaurants and breweries are taking their bars to the sky to add some fun and sun to the dining experience.

Rooftop patios or sky bars combine outdoor dining with great views of the city landscape from a new angle — the bars are built on the rooftop of a building and either have a separate bar, or the food and drinks are brought up from the main level. Around for decades, the rooftop spaces offer an alternative to the typical sidewalk or restaurant patio and can expand the seating or ambience that eating and drinking establishments can offer.

A view from the Sunset Lounge, looking west toward the foothills. The Sunset Lounge is located atop The Elizabeth Hotel in historic Old Town in downtown Fort Collins. Joel Blocker / for BizWest

“It’s the Colorado lifestyle. We all want to be outside,” said Alishia Moore, general manager of The Roost in Longmont.

The Roost, 526 Main St., which opened three years ago, has a full-station bar on the rooftop with eight beers on tap and a full menu service. The bar seating for eight and another 64 cocktail and dining seats are in an open area, accessible to the public from May 1 to Oct. 15, depending on weather.

“Fridays and Saturdays, it’s always full,” Moore said. “It’s definitely the most popular place in the restaurant when the weather is nice.”

Offering a rooftop patio is a draw for patrons, because it is a unique feature only available at a few establishments, Moore said.

“Having that popular space is definitely an advantage,” Moore said. “It’s a little more casual atmosphere. People are hanging out and having a good time. It feels like more of being at a friend’s backyard party.”

The patio has a few drawbacks, such as temperatures and weather that cannot be controlled, a more limited selection of food and drink items and staff having to access stairs to retrieve some of those items, Moore said. Plus, the patio is smaller than the regular dining area and does not have the space to store everything that is needed, she said.

“We have to run downstairs to grab certain products,” she said.

Open Door Brewery, 2030 Ionosphere St. G, in Longmont opened a taproom with a 1,000-square-foot rooftop patio in March 2017 after launching its beer production in late 2015.

“Classically, patios do well whether they are on the ground or on the roof,” said Billy McDivitt, owner of Open Door Brewery.

Coloradans like to drink outside, enjoying the fresh air, but the state prohibits drinking in certain areas, so patios on the ground or roof give them that option, McDivitt said. Open Door Brewery’s rooftop patio has the added advantage of offering the “best view of the Flatirons, at least in south Longmont,” he said.

“There are not too many businesses that have a view of the Flatirons like we do,” McDivitt said. “You can’t really see them from down at the street level or in the neighborhoods.”

Open Door Brewery’s rooftop patio currently does not have a bar top but has picnic and umbrella tables that seat 50. The décor includes iron trelliswork and an open iron railing around the outer edges of the patio.

“It’s a nice space to hang out in the sun,” McDivitt said. “Our clientele is usually happy, if not rambunctious. We keep it as positive and fun atmosphere for our patrons as possible.”

The fun atmosphere can have its drawbacks, however, such as taxing the staff that has to climb stairs to deliver some of the items, McDivitt said. But patrons often get their first drink at the downstairs bar and then head up to the patio, making it easier on the staff, he said.

“It just creates a second area where patrons hang out and drink, and staff has to constantly rotate around and check things out,” McDivitt said.

Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant has patios at all of its locations including a rooftop patio at the Boulder location at 1101 Walnut St., which opened in the early 2000s and is near the Pearl Street Mall. The rooftop patio opens in mid-March and operates through the end of October and will open during warm winter days.

“Why we wanted it was because of the wonderful Flatirons view. It’s a great place to enjoy a cold margarita with the view in beautiful Boulder,” said Derek Stoldt, general manager of Rio Grande in Boulder.

The patio includes a bar top and dining tables in a flowing space with umbrellas, shade sails and misters. There also is a water fountain, and the décor is in bright, festive colors.

“When the weather gets nice, it definitely attracts people,” Stoldt said. “People like to dine outdoors in Colorado. You get a better view from up top, and people like that. … People really enjoy themselves and relax up there and enjoy the summer sun.”

The rooftop patio at Lazy Dog Sports Bar & Grill, 1346 Pearl St., in Boulder seats 100 in an open area under a large awning. The patio, which opened in 2006 nine years after the restaurant’s opening, features a misting system and several fans to help keep patrons cool. The season of use typically spans from mid-April through the end of October.

“People do really enjoy sitting outside eating their meal. It’s a cool concept,” said Halie Baker, general manager of Lazy Dog, explaining that at the time of its opening, the idea of a rooftop patio was popular in Denver and something the restaurant wanted to bring to Boulder.

Tourists especially like the experience of outdoor eating and drinking, something they may not experience often in areas where it is too rainy or humid, Baker said.

“We have special margaritas that you can get on the roof,” Baker said. “There’s something about being outside drinking a frozen margarita you can’t argue with. … It gives us a different edge from everybody else in town.”

That different edge can be found in Fort Collins at the Rooftop Sunset Lounge atop The Elizabeth Hotel, 111 Chestnut St. The fifth floor of the hotel is dedicated to a glassed-in lounge with a full bar, a separate menu and a wrap-around patio with outdoor seating for a spanning view of the city and the mountains.

“It’s an elevated experience, literally on the fifth floor, and yet it’s extremely grounded in this place, directly connected to Fort Collins,” said Jeff Haber, general manager of the hotel. “It’s ridiculously popular.”

The lounge can be waitlisted and is available on a first-come, first-serve basis — there are 65 seats, including 24 on the patio.

“You are literally on top of the world here in Fort Collins,” Haber said. “It’s an elevated, very cool, sophisticated jazz scene without any attitude or expectations. It’s a warm, welcoming vibe. It’s super special.”