Back Door Grill opens new location in Fort Collins
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Back Door Grill has expanded its operations with a new location at 130 W. Laurel just across the street from Colorado State University campus in Fort Collins.
“It’s the same food, the same concept and the same fun atmosphere,” owner David Eliason said. “There are lots of televisions for sports, the dollar bills on the wall, and we have a rooftop patio deck that seats 100 people. We’ve turned that into kind of a Tiki bar up there for the spring and summertime.”
The Fort Collins location, Eliason said, is an extension of the restaurant he opened in Steamboat Springs in June 2014. He said the new location has enjoyed a strong opening, which reflects the consistency, the great tasting food and the service of his Steamboat location.
“We have to thank them (our customers) for boosting us into the position to be able to open another restaurant,” Eliason said. “Our Steamboat locals made us what we are. They support our families, they employ people just by visiting our restaurants, and we owe them a huge, huge debt of gratitude … for supporting our restaurants and giving us the opportunity to grow.”
But in late November and December of last year, Eliason wasn’t sure about his restaurants’ futures. He also owns How Ya Doin’ Pizza and Eatz and O’Neils Tavern & Grill in Steamboat. COVID-19 health regulations had restaurant owners wondering if they could make it through the winter, let alone expand their operations.
At that point, Eliason had already started working on the new location in Fort Collins.
“COVID really hampered getting open,” Eliason said. “It took us eight months longer than we would have liked, but at the same time, we had time to do it right, to work out the kinks and make for smooth swing opening.”
Eliason said he took advantage of the slower pace at his three Steamboat restaurants to focus on the new location.
In Fort Collins, Back Door Grill has the capacity to seat 250 people including 100 in outdoor seating. That’s larger than his Steamboat location.
The new location opened March 5 at 50% capacity, and Eliason said he’s optimistic capacity at all of his restaurants will increase as people continue to get vaccinated.
Brendan Bagdan, who has worked for Eliason in Steamboat for the past three years, serves as the new location’s general manager. The staff also includes six employees that previously worked in Steamboat. Eliason hopes this will bring the feel and atmosphere he enjoys in Steamboat to Fort Collins.
For Eliason, consistency is a key to running a successful restaurant. He said that not only applies to food and service but also to hiring good people and keeping them on staff, making sure those employees get the hours they need and being able to provide them with paychecks. Things that have been a challenge the past 12 months.
“I really pride myself on trying to keep these guys employed,” Eliason said. “People ask me all the time why I’m in this business. For me it’s all about people. … I’m in this business to provide jobs for my employees, good food for my customers and a great place. I have fun doing it.”
COVID-19 was a threat to that, but Eliason said he was thankful for the aid packages that helped his business survive. He took advantage of both the PPP and the Economic Injury Disaster, or EIDL, loans
“This new aid package is kind of like a jump start to get going again, and we’re looking at a brighter future,” Eliason said.
He hopes the worst of the pandemic is over, and he said he is encouraged watching places like Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona and Florida lift mask mandates and allow restaurants to be open at 100% capacity.
“It gives me a lot of optimism that we’re headed in the right direction,” he said. “My honest feeling is that by July we should be at a good place.”
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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