Former owners reviving downtown Colorado Springs taproom, Brewer's Republic

Tom Halfast paints over the sign of the old Underground Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, while he and others from Cerberus Brewing prepare for the reopening of Brewer's Republic as a taproom for Cerberus. The Underground area will be used for banquets while Brewer's will serve beer from Cerberus and other breweries and feature food from Cerberus. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

In ancient Greek mythology, Cerberus was a monstrous three-headed dog who kept the dead from returning to the land of the living.

In modern day Colorado Springs, Cerberus is giving Brewer's Republic a new lease on life.

The popular downtown craft beer bar and restaurant, at 112 N. Nevada Ave., closed suddenly Dec. 20, apparently because of a dispute over fire code violations between the owner, Jeff Haigh, and the landlord.

Haigh sublet the space and bought the trio of businesses - including The Underground Pub and Subterranean Nightclub in the adjacent Kiowa Building - in March 2016, when long-time owners Jerry Morris and Tom Halfast left to co-found Cerberus Brewing Co.

"I'd heard through the grapevine it wasn't going well, and in the last couple months the landlord started contacting me," said Morris, whose excitement about "having another go" at the downtown taproom was sobered by logistical concerns. "We've got such a great thing going over on West Colorado Avenue - we're so much busier than we ever anticipated being - and to throw this into the mix with something we're wildly successful with, it just is kind of overwhelming."

Still, Morris said he and his partners have no reservations about revisiting and refreshing what proved a popular and ahead-of-its-time model for craft beer watering holes.

Morris and Halfast opened the city's largest gay dance club in the basement of 110 N. Nevada Ave. in 2006. After several unsuccessful goes at starting a restaurant in the street-level storefront next door, they leased the space out. Brewer's Republic eventually moved in, and after a brief partnership with the original owners, Morris and Halfast bought them out in 2013.

Morris said he'd been aware of potential code issues with the fire suppression system in the kitchen of the historic building, but - at least while he and his partners were in operation there - a grandfather clause meant they weren't required to make upgrades.

That apparently changed when the business switched hands, however.

"He changed some equipment and I think that's ultimately what triggered the Fire Department to come in and say now you've got to upgrade the whole thing," said Morris. "There were six pages of stuff (upgrades and fixes) the Fire Department sent me, and I'm pretty sure at that point it was just overwhelming for him."

All of the required fixes - plus new paint and cosmetic flourishes - will be done by Brewer's reopening Feb. 1.

The revived bar will have a new tagline denoting it as a "Cerberus taproom," with a third of the 20 taps devoted to selections from the west side brewery and the rest to "the best we can find; what Brewer's is known for," Morris said.

The menu, created by Cerberus executive chef Mark LeFebvre and prepared by sous chef Michael Sims, will be a pared down, sub and pizza-focused version of the fare offered at the west side restaurant and brewery.

"Given the frightening amount of craft beer places that are opening up, anybody in their right mind should be concerned about the competition. I'm really not," Morris said. "(Cerberus co-owner and head brewer) Josh Adamski and (assistant brewer) Taylor Donner will be advising and helping pick out the beers. Between what we'll have on tap and the fact that Mark will be in charge of the kitchen, you've got a winning combination."

Adamski's mom and Cerberus co-owner, Cindy Geiser,  is also a partner in the reopening.

The Underground and Subterranean night club - which catered to a dwindling crowd during Haigh's tenure - will not be returning, Morris said. The 11,000-square-foot basement space is being renovated to house a banquet room, yoga studio and the barrel aging program for Cerberus.

"That's really the reason we took over this place in 2006, to put in a dance club," Morris said. "I really hate to see that go but I'm really excited about what we're going to be able to put together, because we have such an amazing cast of characters helping us do it."

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