This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Unless an Auntie Anne’s pretzel is your idea of gourmet grub, an airport isn’t the first place you’d think to head to for a great night out in Denver. But Punch Bowl Social, a playful restaurant and entertainment concept that just opened its tenth location in what used to be Stapleton International Airport’s air traffic control tower, is changing that perception.
In November, the self-described “eat-ertainment” venue opened its doors after transforming the decommissioned airport’s long-vacant air traffic control tower into a 32,000-square-foot adult playland, complete with restaurant, 360-degree bar, six bowling lanes, two private karaoke rooms, a pair of bocce courts, ping pong tables, stadium seating, a beer garden and a host of other retro games.
For nearly 70 years, beginning in 1929, Stapleton International Airport was the main aviation hub for Denver area residents, until a host of issues — including a lack of space between runways, no room for physical growth and a lawsuit from nearby residents over the noise that the building created — led officials to decide to scrap what they had and build an entirely new airport from the ground up. While most of the airport’s structures were demolished to make room for a planned community that would take over much of the original space the Stapleton Airport had to offer, its air traffic control tower was saved. Then it was just a matter of figuring out what to do with it.
According to the venue’s owners, dozens of proposals for how to repurpose the historic tower have been presented over the years, with demolition being one possible option. That’s when Denver city councilman Chris Herndon, who represents the residents of the Mile High City’s Stapleton neighborhood, came up with the idea of pitching a redevelopment of the building to Punch Bowl Social founder and CEO Robert Thompson.
“It has been an incredible effort, and more importantly an honor, to preserve the former control tower,” Thompson said in a statement to the press. “We are intentional about seeking locations that have historic roots but need a new purpose. We’ve done it at our original location on Broadway in Denver and have projects in San Diego and Brooklyn that will also adapt historic properties for reuse as Punch Bowl Socials.”
They’ve also made sure to include quirky nods to the building’s past in their design and décor choices: In addition to the painstaking process of removing, preserving and replacing the precast panels that adorned the original tower’s exterior. Inside, revelers will find vintage suitcases and other travel memorabilia to maintain what Punch Bowl Social calls a “golden age of flight” aesthetic within the building’s interior design.
Even the onsite restaurant, which is modeled to feel more like an old-school diner, makes it feel as if you’re flying 35,000 feet in the air with its kitschy menu — which includes an “In-Flight Snack” (aka chili-limed fried peanuts) — designed by James Beard Award-winning chef Hugh Acheson. While craft beer and cocktails like the Aviation (Breckenridge gin with creme de violet, Luxardo maraschino and fresh lemon juice) make the perfect diversion between heated games of Bonzini, Scrabble or shuffleboard.
Punch Bowl Social is open now.
Featured image courtesy of Punch Bowl Social.
Know before you go.
News and deals straight to your inbox every day.
NEW INCREASED OFFER: 60,000 points! With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 60,000 point sign up bonus worth up to $1,200 in value, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game. Here are the top 5 reasons it should be in your wallet, or read our definitive review for more details.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards