Local Relic owners talk plans for former Carter Payne Event Center 

Side Dish

Springs brewery Local Relic (320 S. Weber St., localrelic.com) remains under contract to buy the historic Carter Payne Event Center, once destined to be the location of the beleaguered Colorado Springs Public Market concept. Brewery owners Melissa Lofton and Jeff Zearfoss say that some paperwork has yet to be finalized. This puts the company in a curious situation — as noted in this week's List, they're able to sell beer by the bottle and on draft, but they aren't authorized to start the construction work needed to turn the former Green Man Taproom into their final vision.

"We've seen so many restaurants miss opening timelines ... we don't want to be that brewery," says Zearfoss. For now, they'll be hosting private events and, sporadically, opening up to let patrons sample their beers. They're already making big plans for the space, but Lofton makes it clear that they intend to respect the building's historic role, as a matter of philosophy.

"We are not going to change the Carter Payne from the Carter Payne," she says. "It's been that since, what? 1897? So we really want to respect the intention of this building ... a community hub."

To that end, they intend to host four food vendors once they open fully. Their plans for that, though, are unique — they'll be offering short one- to two-year leases to vendors who'll have maybe four menu items. If all goes according to plan, it'll be an incubator to help restaurant concepts develop enough to launch elsewhere in town.

"We've got a spectacular community in Colorado Springs," says Lofton. "I think it's totally achievable because this community supports cool efforts. You don't have to go to Denver for a little culture now."

"It's also about how can we maximize the positive impact of our business," adds Zearfoss. He doesn't characterize Local Relic or the pair's catering company, Common Cause Catering, as food businesses so much as "change-the-world" businesses. "On the catering side, we work with individuals coming out of homelessness and domestic abuse," he says as an example. They'll also focus on hiring people from traditionally challenged backgrounds to work at Carter Payne. "We don't dream small, for better or for worse," he says.

But big ethical goals don't mean they'll be neglecting the hooch here. They plan on hosting between 24 and 30 taps for their beer, on top of another 30 brews available in bottle.

"If you're not going to do a flagship [beer], you really want to show off the breadth of your offering," explains Lofton. They also plan on opening a wine and cocktail bar, offering "cool, out-there wines that people aren't getting in a normal restaurant experience," she says.

But that's on the horizon. First, they'll have to close the deal and their doors, then undergo construction before this dream can become a reality. Until then, fans should watch Facebook for details about Local Relic events there and around town.


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