Tap House taps out: Owner transforming downtown space into new barbecue joint

The Tap House has been a fixture in downtown Steamboat Springs for nearly 25 years. The bar and restaurant will close its doors Saturday before it reopens in December as the Mad Creek BBQ & Saloon.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Saturday will mark the end of nearly a quarter-century run for Tap House Sports Grill as it will close ahead of its transformation and the latest chapter for the iconic downtown Steamboat Springs restaurant.

“I am (sad) because you know we were so close,” owner Patrick Groves said. “How many restaurants in Steamboat, or elsewhere, can say they’ve been around for 25 years? We were so close to doing that, but it’s just not going to happen.”

The Tap House opened as BW-3 by former owners Gary Saxe and Dave Daggett. In 1997, those owners changed the name to the Tap House, and it became a popular locals spot that served up buffalo wings from the kitchen, beer at the bar and plenty of sports thanks to a number of large TVs in the dining room.

Since Groves took ownership two years ago, he has worked to improve the space, adding a new floor and other improvements. He also purchased a new barbecue pit in February to expand his barbecue offerings.

While Saturday will close out Tap House’s chapter, Groves said he plans to start fresh by the end of the year with a new barbecue menu and new name: Mad Creek BBQ & Saloon.

The restaurant will shift to a Texas barbecue menu featuring smoked brisket, whole or half chickens and ribs. Sides will include pinto beans, potato salad, coleslaw and macaroni and cheese.

The biggest difference, Groves said, is how the food is served.

“You just walk up and order your food right there,” Groves said. “We will serve it up on a tray, and you take it back to your table.”

The bar will remain unchanged and Groves’ hope is that Mad Creek customers will be handed a buzzer and find a table. Until their order is ready, they can head to the bar.

“If you go down to Texas, what happens is you walk in, and you stand in line and at some of the popular places, you can be in line for 30 to 45 minutes,” Groves said.

Groves said he realized that a change was needed at Tap House three months ago as he struggled to find the staff to keep the business operating smoothly. He said the switch to the barbecue format will mean he needs half as many employees to operate this winter.

“By a long shot, the biggest reason for this change was staffing concerns,” Groves said. “That was the main reason we decided to make the switch. It will cut our staffing needs both front of house and back a house significantly.”

Normally, Groves said he has between 20 and 25 employees for a typical shift. This model will allow him to get by with roughly half as many people. This summer ,many restaurants in Steamboat have shifted from a seven-day-per-week model to a five-day-per-week model in an effort to keep from overworking staffs.

Groves said Tap House had actually started closing Mondays and Tuesdays. He said he is preparing for a busy winter and has heard that bookings are up but is unsure if he will be open five or seven days per week.

“I would like to be open seven, but I really honestly can’t say now that we will be,” Groves said. “It’s going to depend on whether we can get the staff to do that.”

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