The seemingly never-ending expansion of the local brewing scene includes not just new breweries, but existing breweries opening taprooms left and right. Even though they just celebrated their first anniversary, Red Door is joining the fray with plans to open a taproom downtown in the Simms Building. To get some further details about the space in Albuquerque’s first modern tall building, plus a possible timetable, I sat down with co-owner Matt Biggs last week.
NMDSBC: Are you guys crazy to be opening a taproom this soon? Or was it just the kind of opportunity you couldn’t pass up?
Matt: A little bit of both. We’ve always kind of gone back and forth on productive versus expansion. We try to balance that. There’s just an opportunity for us. I’m working on a couple projects in the building. The building owners really wanted a taproom so they kind of helped make it happen.
NMDSBC: It’s first floor, right?
NMDSBC: It seems like they’re trying to create a little retail space there. More and more you’re seeing breweries being viewed as an anchor tenant. Is that kind of how they wanted it with you guys?
Matt: No, they didn’t even … I don’t know, they just want that building to become a little more central to Albuquerque. It’s historic, it’s the first (modern) high-rise in the city. At this point we’re taking a big chunk of the bottom floor. I think we will be a pretty big tenant for them. I think we’ll be an attraction as well to people in the tower. I don’t know if they necessarily think of us as the primary tenant. We were actually looking at other projects prior to the brewery. I think this is just a nice addition to the building.
The Petersons, the landlords, they are pretty into the brewery scene as well. They’re landlords to quite a few of the breweries around town, like Boese Brothers and the new proposed Marble space. One of the Peterson companies both of those brewery (buildings). So they’re really invested in getting breweries into their properties because the breweries benefit the properties in general.
NMDSBC: So give me some specifics, what’s the layout going to be like, what’s the size of the joint?
Matt: The size is about 2,500 square feet, that’s real rough. It’s in the old bank in the building so there’s a vault in there, which is kind of weird. We may try to put in a stage, we’re kind of early on that. We like live music, but it’s not a huge spot. So that’s a potential (addition). And it should be kind of entertaining because the Simms Building Historic Society requires that all signs be neon, so we’re going to try to make a giant neon red door, hopefully.
NMDSBC: So it might have a giant retro feel to the whole place.
Matt: You see it, right?
NMDSBC: Yeah. … Lately there have been a lot of places announcing new taprooms and the first thing people ask us is “can they make enough beer to fill both places?” Are you guys worried about that at all?
Matt: Yeah, we definitely are. As of today, our limit is storage. So we’re working on a cooler expansion and a keg expansion. Our production isn’t significantly limited in how much beer we can produce, it’s more limited in how much we can store. So we’re addressing that. By the time the taproom opens we should be in a good space to do that. I don’t think we’ll have massive shortages. If we do I think we’ll have some guest taps early on. But that’s not really the plan, that’s kind of (Plan B). I think our production should be adequate for a second location by the time it opens.
We’ve still got to go through licensing. Those went out yesterday. We’re literally across the street from a school. We’ve got to find out how to reach out to them and make sure that’s not a problem.
NMDSBC: You were noting before that now with all the places opening down there you can almost do a mini-brewery crawl. You look at the concentration of places and there are good and bad things about it. You’ve got folks going to one place and then deciding, “Hey, let’s check out Red Door.” The flipside of that is people have been to four other places, they walk into your place and then stumble out. Do you guys have any concerns about that?
Matt: No, not really. Anytime you have alcohol over-serving is obviously a concern. Our servers at this location have always been good at mitigating those problems. So honestly I don’t have any concerns about that thanks to my staff. We hire competent people so that for me mitigates those issue.
And also breweries don’t pull in that crowd. That’s what Central is for. That’s a block away. They can go to the Library to get stumbling drunk. That’s not the crowd we’re going for and I don’t think they want craft beer anyway. Why would you drink craft beer to get shitfaced?
NMDSBC: When I was over at Sidetrack I looked out the door and saw apartments rising up in almost every direction. There really is a neighborhood vibe down there, as opposed to being in more of an industrial area here. Do you really hope to get into that neighborhood pub vibe down there?
Matt: I think with downtown it doesn’t have that residential feel yet, like other major cities. There isn’t a lot of live-work yet. I don’t think Albuquerque is in that league yet. We’re thinking of it more as a social area. You’ve already got Central there, where all the 21 to 24-year-olds go. There’s really nowhere else in the city where you can park and walk among multiple places. If you’re in your late 20s to 40s, so that’s what I see that area as. It’s kind of a more, I don’t know exactly the word, but a more reserved social area. Breweries are really popular but there are none that are really close to each other, besides maybe Back Alley and Chama (Microbar). Now you’re going to have five or six options in that area.
NMDSBC: In terms of the space itself, what do you need to do in terms of getting ready?
Matt: A lot, actually. The bathrooms are going to be organic to the building. Customers are going to be able to access lobby bathrooms so we don’t need to build those. The plumbing can be accessed straight through the floor, so you just drill straight down into the basement. So that’s actually pretty minimal as well, we just need to plumb the bar. And that’s it. We need to clean up the floor and do some lighting changes and get a giant neon sign. Other than that, decor and a bar and that’s it.
NMDSBC: So it sounds like after you get all the permitting done, it could pop up very quickly.
Matt: Yeah, a couple of months. We still need to do some build out. The State is moving surprisingly fast, actually they legitimately are. I sent in an application a couple weeks ago. They are already posting it and giving me a hearing date, which is fantastic. Then it goes to the City so we can apply for a waiver for being close to a school. Then it goes back to the State for final approval and then we’re good to essentially start the build out. So realistically, we could be looking at early next year. March is reasonable.
NMSDBC: So walking past the building from the street, looking at the layout, where specifically are you?
Matt: If you’re looking at the building, if you’re at the high school looking at the building, we’re on the left side, the east side.
NMDSBC: But that puts you right on 4th Street and Gold. So you can put up some exterior signage to make sure people know you’re there.
Matt: Gold really is going to be the bigger thoroughfare, which is going to be the bigger front for us. We’ve got about the third of the space of the front.
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Thanks to Matt for taking the time to chat, plus for the goblet of Anniversary Double Red. Such a good beer. We wish everyone at Red Door luck with their plans. And we all wish E-Rock had not moved out of downtown, because his old place would have made a great crash pad with all of these breweries and taprooms opening in that area.