The recent announcement by Bosque Brewing that it was changing its Santa Fe Market Station taproom into a second Restoration Pizza caught quite a few observers by surprise. Dig a little deeper, though, and it reads more like the type of aggressive moves the brewery used to make before the pandemic.
In order to learn more about the decision, and what else Bosque is up to these days, I sat down with co-owner Gabe Jensen and Restoration operations manager Nathan Winham last week.
“Even in the beginning we teetered on whether we should make that a Restoration Pizza in the first place,” Jensen said of the Santa Fe taproom. “We considered it, (but) we hadn’t quite dialed everything in here yet as far as making it sustainable and scalable. Not that we’ve gotten everything figured out now, but definitely way more than we did when we opened as a Bosque. It was already in the back of our minds.”
The Santa Fe taproom opened quietly in the midst of the pandemic, which is not usually Bosque’s style, Jensen said. When Bosque normally opens a new location, there is a huge marketing push, and customers flock inside when the doors are unlocked.
“We weren’t able to do that up there,” he said. “We just never had that breakthrough. We opened mid-pandemic with less touches than we’re used to having. As a Bosque it never really took off based on how we’re used to doing things, full kitchen and all that. We did try to get the kitchen open, but we just kind of struggled out of the gate.”
There were other factors, too, which marked some of the differences between the Santa Fe craft beer scene and where Bosque was already established in Albuquerque and Las Cruces.
“I think there’s other things that went into it,” Jensen said. “The competition is different up there. The labor (market) is different up there than it is down here. Really, it was (that) Resto was ready for a second location and that was primed to be that second location. And, you get to keep the beer. The beer stays. We’re kind of looking at as Restoration Pizza is joining Bosque up there. But, Restoration has definitely become its own thing as well.”
Jensen said that Winham had been “champing at the bit to do that next” Restoration Pizza location, so it ultimately made sense to switch over. That process will likely begin next week.
“It’s just a beer bar, and it will probably be that for a couple more weeks, probably May 16 through May 20 we’ll probably shut it down and start the conversion at that point,” Winham said. “But, currently it’s open five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday in the afternoon.”
The interior will be redone, in large part to give the taproom a similar look and feel to the first Restoration.
“The thing that’s (uniquely) Resto that’s so different from Bosque is obviously our kitchen, and being able to see into the kitchen,” Winham said. “That’s a hard stance that I have for Resto. You go to somebody’s place and hang out for dinner, you hang out in the kitchen. You see what’s going on in the kitchen and it gives you that feel. That’s what we have going on here in Albuquerque, and that’s what we want in all of our future locations as well. Being inviting, and being able to see what’s going on in the kitchen, who’s making in the pizza, and doing all of that type of stuff, as well.”
For the most part, the footprint of the space will look relatively the same, with about 130 seats inside and outside for patrons. Of course, this being a Bosque operation, there will be even more changes coming down the line.
“We actually have a lease on the space next door, as well, which allowed us to expand the patio,” Jensen said. “That will be phase two. We’re working on plans to expand, so then we’ll (occupy) the whole space that was Flying Star.”
“That will increase seating by about 100, as well,” Winham added. “Our total seating capacity (will be) probably around 230 to 240. It’s very comparable seating-wise to what we have here.”
With so many beer-centric venues already around the Santa Fe Railyard, from Second Street to Boxcar to Violet Crown and the future Nuckolls Brewing, making the move to being a Restoration Pizza should help set the taproom apart.
“I think pizza makes a lot of sense as far as that market (goes),” Jensen said. “We’re excited to be there. It will make us sell more beer, which is even better.”
Speaking of selling more beer, Santa Fe will not be without a Bosque taproom for too long, as the company is looking to restart construction on a taproom on South Cerrillos, next door to the Dion’s.
“That one has been on hold, then we started construction, then we stopped construction,” Jensen said. “So currently construction is on hold, but we did recently made the decision to pull the trigger to get it open. Now it’s just a timing thing with Eubank and the Restoration conversion, and a couple other things on the horizon that I’ll be ready to talk about later. It’s all about timing now.”
This taproom will be the first Bosque location built without a kitchen, but Jensen said he feels confident that such a model will work in that part of Santa Fe.
“We’re excited about that,” he said. “I think the beer bar (concept) works better there. I would guess it’s going to be (opening) some time this year. But, I don’t have anything set. We did do some work in construction, concrete prices went up a lot, so we did the concrete before that happened. We bought some equipment and electrical, because that was going to go up. Now it’s just re-mobilizing and getting that open.”
Part of the delay is also a decision by the Bosque staff not to spread themselves too thin, as progress continues toward an opening of a new taproom in Albuquerque, as well. That location, at Eubank and Spain in the Northeast Heights, is mostly going according to plan.
“As according to plan as anything can be,” Jensen said. “We’re hoping to have a CO (Certificate of Occupancy) May 13 is what I’ve heard this morning, but that changes by the hour. I’m pretty confident in that. Jotham (Michnovicz, co-owner) seems pretty confident in that. We should be opening that one right as we’re starting construction on Resto. That’s essentially what it’s looking like. We have two different teams, really. There’s some shared teams, but as far as operationally, that operations side we can do Bosque and Resto at the same time because of that. Although, I think it’s good it’s not at the (exact) same time.”
We double checked and that hopeful date has been pushed back to May 18 at the earliest, so no need to change your plans for this weekend to include a visit to the new taproom.
Still, it all looks and feels like genuine progress, something that has everyone at Bosque feeling like things are getting back to normal.
“We’re talking a couple days between opening Eubank and starting Resto,” Jensen said. “I wouldn’t have it any other way. Our team is ready for that. This is what we do. It’s been a while. It was nice to have a break for a while. The pandemic was a different kind of stress. I like this stress better.”
Bosque is back to doing Bosque things. We are all happy to see that again.
A big thanks to Gabe and Nathan for the interview (and lunch). We will hopefully have more on the Eubank taproom progress later this week.
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