By John Colson
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
Carbondale’s historic Main Street district has long been the home of a changing roster of bars and restaurants, but these days things are looking a little different as the drinking scene takes on a more social vibe, according to two entrepreneurs working on those changes.
With the advent nearly two years ago of the Marble Distilling Company, 150 Main St., and now the pending inauguration of the Roaring Fork Beer Co.’s new tasting room at 358 Main, reportedly to be known as “Batch,” it would appear that the changing nature of Main Street drinking establishments is on the upswing.
A little history
Back in the late 1970s, before Carbondale had been discovered by the world as the mecca for food and drink that it has become today, there weren’t many places to get a drink on Main Street.
The celebrated Black Nugget Saloon was at the corner of Fourth and Main, the Crystal Valley Steakhouse had the space now occupied by Town, and a Mexican restaurant known as T-Jo’s offered food (with 3.2 beer) in the space formerly held by the European Antiques store and now about to become Batch.
A bar and restaurant called the Dusty Nose … er, the Dusty Rose had moved into the space formerly filled by Kenny’s Pharmacy, but it didn’t last long and soon was taken over by Skip Bell and his Pour House, which continues to offer libations and food to this day.
Over the ensuing years, the names of these venerable businesses mostly have changed (does the name, Ship O’ Fools ring a bell, with its infamous Widespread Panic spoof in 2003?), though the storefronts largely remained the same until relatively recently.
Others have come (and some have gone) as the time passed, but today’s roster of bar/restaurants has been fairly static for several years. From White House Pizza at Eighth and Main, to the Marble Distilling Co. on the east, the eating and drinking venues have mostly held pat.
The scion of the Roaring Fork Beer Co. on Dolores Way, Batch was initially slated to open in late May, according to a small article in the online Brewbound publication, though it appeared this week that it may be delayed until early June.
With a completely remodeled interior, the “tasting room,” as it is styled, will feature 24 taps (compared to the six taps at the Dolores Way location).
Of those, a dozen will initially be serving up the beverages manufactured at the Dolores Way brewery, according to Aly Sanguily, marketing manager of the company she founded with her partner, Chase Engel.
“We’re not actually a brew pub,” she told The Sopris Sun this week. “We’re a production brewery” with an outlet downtown that is not associated with a restaurant, as bars must be in Colorado.
The idea for the new outlet came up, she said, because “We just really wanted to have a place for our customers to come and have a taste of the beer (in) a really cool and unique place.”
That, and the fact that on Dolores Way the business of attracting customers “was very successful in a very difficult location. In certain months, we were a little slower, because everyone was downtown.”
They met with the owner of the 107-year-old building, Bernard Poncelot, struck a deal, and that was that.
“He was very positive and excited about everything we’ve done,” Sanguily recalled.
Batch, she continued, has a “manufacturer’s license” that is standard for breweries in Colorado and permits strictly the sale of beer manufactured by the RFBC itself.
But, she went on, they plan to expand the focus of the new establishment to include wines and other alcoholic beverages, as well as some non-alcoholic libations, which will flow from the other taps not already busy with RFBC beer.
Tasting rooms such as this one, she said, are a different way of approaching customers’ needs for a drink and a place in which to imbibe.
“It just creates it’s own scene,” she said, in the same way that brew pubs “have their own kind of vibe.”
Typically, she predicted, customers will be limited to two or three “pours” of what she termed the “high octane” brews, partly to prevent over-consumption but also because “most people really don’t want more than three.”
There also will be “flights,” or samplings of several brews at one sitting in smaller glasses.
Asked how she might characterize the changing scene downtown, Sanguily remarked, “I feel like it’s such a specialized market. It’s just more intimate … such a personal, intimate experience.”
And, she said, “I’m excited to be downtown.”
Although the opening date was not exactly known by midweek, Sanguily said Batch will be open from 2-10 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays, and from 2-11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and there will be live music regularly.
Over at the Marble Distilling Company and the Distillery Inn (a combination distillery and lodge), co-owner Connie Baker paused in her frantic preparations for the company’s second birthday to chat about the changing nature of drinking establishments on Main Street.
Although the MDC started out producing strictly vodka-based beverages, it is now coming out with whiskeys — both bourbon and rye, so far, but with plans for what she termed a “single malt” patterned after Scotch that has yet to be started.
All of which is meant to satisfy a thirst that has nothing to do with quantities consumed, and more to do with providing unique hard-liquor flavors that can be savored and discussed.
“I think it’s more of a social scene than a drinking scene,” she said of the atmosphere at MDC and at Batch.
The focus at MDC, she said, always has been on providing a wide array of entertainment, from live music (the business has won town approval for a stage out front) to movies (such as a showing of “The Big Lebowski” on May 30, in honor of the establishment’s signature drink, “The Dude”), in addition to the range of beverages distilled on the premises and sold at The Marble Bar.
“You might come in for a cocktail or two and then head out for dinner,” she explained, “or maybe come in after dinner and have a couple. It’s more of a social and gathering place than a hang-out, drinking place.”
And since the beverages sold are hard liquor based, the atmosphere of talking more than boozing is one that is not only intentional, it is deemed better for the health of the business as well as the customers.
Baker stressed that the entire community is invited to take part in the week of festivities marking MDC’s two-year run, starting with an event planned at Batch Thursday night (although construction delays might mean that event will have moved to MDC) and continuing with what Baker called “the big party” on Friday.
Starting at 5 p.m. on Friday, she said, the 100 block of Main Street was to be closed, to make room for a celebration that was to include live music, food trucks and specialty cocktails for all comers.