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Friday, February 7, 2020

Huge gaming complex North Side Social a week from opening at former Till

Posted By on Fri, Feb 7, 2020 at 10:35 AM

click to enlarge Mascot Marvin the Marmot - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Mascot Marvin the Marmot
click to enlarge The new signage. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The new signage.
You may recall my reporting last fall on the closure/relocation of Till Kitchen to make way for a gaming concept. At the time we didn't know where Till was moving exactly, and the gaming concept didn't yet have a name.

Today, we now know Till will join Garden of the Gods Gourmet at its 26th Street location for fine-dining evening service (to begin around May, tentatively) while its former space has been morphed into North Side Social, an already huge building that'll continue to grow with attached outdoor features as well as an ancillary structure if all goes according to plan. (Relatedly, another holding in parent company Altitude Hospitality Group's portfolio, Sprig, has also closed on the north end with plans to reopen in the former Zeezo's location downtown around mid June, tentatively.)

The below renderings show part of the scale of North Side Social after the next phases. The pictured pickleball courts and entertainment features will go where the current, west-facing parking area is.

click to enlarge The grand plan. - COURTESY NORTH SIDE SOCIAL
  • Courtesy North Side Social
  • The grand plan.
click to enlarge Plans call for outdoor performances. - COURTESY NORTH SIDE SOCIAL
  • Courtesy North Side Social
  • Plans call for outdoor performances.

Ahead of the February 14 opening day, I took an interior tour on February 6 at the still-in-construction North Side Social with Altitude Hospitality Group Founder Mitch Yellen. The entrepreneur feels so confident about the potential for pickleball in particular, as the fastest growing sport in the U.S., that's he's also underway with two locations of another concept called Pickle Republic; one in Lone Tree, another in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He calls them "a country club for people who don’t belong to country club."

click to enlarge Ambitious Altitude Hospitality Group Founder Mitch Yellen - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Ambitious Altitude Hospitality Group Founder Mitch Yellen

As we toured through North Side Social, I asked Yellen about what didn't work with Till that precipitated the move to the gaming concept. He proved pretty forthcoming with lessons learned.

"If you're thinking you're building something too large, talk to Mitch," he joked. "Once I knew it, I didn't wait. I called an audible. ... The vision was too big for a single concept. But this building makes sense for this concept."

It's actually not the first audible he'd called for this space, which shifted focus not too long after opening. Yellen says he wasn't exactly losing money, and described what sounded like a break-even situation, where Till was bringing in good money, but putting it largely toward bills, with simply too much overhead. If you've been in, you probably have the visual of the 80-foot long open kitchen inside of more than 17,000 square feet; the initial construction cost topped $13 million.

click to enlarge Dining tables have been cleared to make way for shuffleboard tables near the bar. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Dining tables have been cleared to make way for shuffleboard tables near the bar.

"Overall, not enough people were willing to pay for good quality food," he said. "And I'm not going to serve crappy food. At North Side Social, we're going to serve bar food in a healthy way." (Till Chef Philip Griffen will launch and stabilize North Side Social before moving to his new location; he's designed the opening menus, which you can view here.)

Back to our tour: Yellen takes me through what was formerly The Roost at Till on the building's north end, which will now be called The Burrow, and still cater to coffee drinkers, while also selling alcohol. (After 9 p.m., "family-friendly" North Side Social will be age 21 and up until midnight closing hours.) The Burrow will host dart boards as well as vintage 80s and 90s arcade games.

Moving south toward what was the bakery and one-time grab-and-go market, he points to an area that will now host a dozen pinball machines in another arcade zone. He mentions plans for pinball tournaments and many other gaming tournaments to be hosted on site as well.

click to enlarge Duckpin bowling balls at a two-lane bowling court. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Duckpin bowling balls at a two-lane bowling court.

In addition to bowling and pinball, paid games will include: 8-foot Battleship, Killer Queen (a 10-player strategy game), bubble hockey, shuffleboard, 4- and 8-man foosball and skee-ball. Free games on site include: ping pong, cornhole, giant Connect 4, and ladder toss.

The outdoor games coming in phase two, sometime around June, tentatively, are pickleball (including a pro shop and private cabanas for groups), bocce ball, giant Jenga and more. Phase three, which could break ground as early as October if all's going well on the first two phases, would include indoor pickle ball courts inside a new building for winter play, as well as an outdoor ice skating rink.
click to enlarge Dining booths remain near the open-kitchen counter, but some 50 large TVs have been added all over the building for sports viewing. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Dining booths remain near the open-kitchen counter, but some 50 large TVs have been added all over the building for sports viewing.

As for Griffen's "approachable" food and drink, you can see from the menus that pizza remains a fixture in the space; Yellen's still proud of their San Francisco sourdough starter that's always informed the pies at Till. The prices will generally range from $9 to $14, he says, noting again that it'll stay "consistent with Altitude's quality."

Look for upwards of 50 beers plus other wines and drinks on the taps, as well as the cocktail list. Some popular drinks are holdovers from Till, but with new names. Depending on where you sit in the facility, you can either go for counter service (near the pizza kitchen) or full service (closer to the bar), so it may take a couple visits to fully figure out the lay of the land.

click to enlarge 70 total taps are being installed. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • 70 total taps are being installed.

Till and Garden of the Gods Gourmet's former baking operations have moved to the Focus on the Family campus, where kitchen space was available; plus, they're a client, Yellen notes. That leaves open room in North Side Social's rear kitchen, which Yellen hopes to rent out to other businesses as commissary space. Much refrigeration space is open along with ample baking equipment.

The former private-dining area on the building's far south end will remain in use to host parties now, as well as tournaments, opening up to a patio area when needed. 

click to enlarge Some neon near the bar. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Some neon near the bar.

Seemingly never content to be doing just one giant project at a time (hence the Pickle Republic idea), Yellen teases a couple future plans he and his wife and his investors have in mind.

The first relates to taking Till to the next level at its new location, where construction's also underway to expand the facility and redecorate it. (Garden of the Gods Gourmet will still serve breakfast and lunch, turning over the space to Till in the evenings.) Yellen says Griffen worked at a Michelin starred restaurant, and he believes Griffen could bring a star here.

And if all that's not enough, Yellen concludes by saying he has his eye on space at Gold Hill Mesa, which in a few years, given success on the north side, could see another concept like North Side Social.

click to enlarge Many mini Marvins. The design comes via a Minneapolis firm, says Yellen. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Many mini Marvins. The design comes via a Minneapolis firm, says Yellen.

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