It’s 10:50 a.m. on a Wednesday, and five women are huddled on the Augustine Grill’s porch ahead of its 11 a.m. opening. At five ’til, a waitress unlocks the door. The restaurant is still …
It’s 10:50 a.m. on a Wednesday, and five women are huddled on the Augustine Grill’s porch ahead of its 11 a.m. opening. At five ’til, a waitress unlocks the door.
The restaurant is still setting up, she explains, but she wants to relieve them from the chilly December morning.
As the women are shown to a table, staff greet and seat several more customers in the minutes to follow. Answering the phone, which rings repeatedly over the next hour, is Dana White, who’s worked on-and-off for the restaurant since its start in 1997.
“I was here,” White said, describing the restaurant’s early days as an exciting time, when people lined up outside waiting for tables. “It was awesome. It was crowded. You couldn’t move.”
The Augustine operates in one of Castle Rock’s historic Victorian homes, at 519 Wilcox St., built in the early 1900s. The small rooms — a former dining room, a living room, a bedroom, plus a 2004 addition built for more dining space — have served as indoor seating for customers, while its gardens are also a popular attraction.
“It’s been wonderful to have a venue where people would walk in and say, `It just feels like coming home,’ ” co-owner Anna Linney said.
That Wednesday morning, customers bustled in and out, exchanging pleasantries. One topic of conversation came as a surprise to some.
“They’re closing,” one customer remarked.
“Why?” asked a woman next to her.
Over the past 20 years, the restaurant developed a loyal group of regulars, White said, among which news of its fast-approaching closure is now spreading. Doors close for good on Dec. 23.
The property has been sold and will become home to a brewery.
Linney, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Mike, said one reason the couple is closing shop is to spend more time with family in the future, something working in the restaurant industry made difficult.
But mostly, Linney said, they are closing to make way for the next generation of entrepreneurs.
In their case, that’s Castle Rock resident Andrew Wasson; his wife, Rachel; and his brother, Dean. Together, the three will be opening a brewing company and tap room, Wild Blue Yonder Brewing Co., once the Augustine is officially closed.
“It felt like the right time,” Linney said.
Preserving past, building future
The new owners’ plans for the original Victorian structure are strictly cosmetic, Andrew said, but its new addition will be torn down and replaced with a 3,500-square-foot tap room. A breezeway will connect the two buildings.
A carriage house on the property will be used for private parties and events, and they’ll continue maintaining the Augustine’s gardens.
“We wanted to try and keep as much as we could with the site,” Andrew said. “We wanted to honor the old buildings and help put new life in them, and with the new addition, we wanted to have something that contrasted them to show what Castle Rock was and where Castle Rock is going in the future.”
The Augustine’s kitchen will serve food for the tap house, such as burgers and pretzels, and they’ll have a liquor license to serve wine, craft cocktails and ciders.
All three of the new owners are retired from the U.S. Air Force, which inspired the name for Wild Blue Yonder Brewing. Dean is a graduate of the University of California, Davis Master Brewers Program, and currently a culinary student at Johnson & Wales University in Denver. He’ll manage the brewery’s food and beverage operation while Andrew serves as the managing partner and Rachel runs human resources.
“We have always loved the charm and the feel of downtown Castle Rock and right now there is just a strong revitalization in downtown,” Andrew said, referencing the redesign of Festival Park and the developing Riverwalk project. “We thought this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come in and do something really special.”
They hope the new brewery at the Augustine’s location on Sixth and Wilcox streets will help showcase the downtown, Andrew said.
Future patrons can expect a farmhouse, industrial aesthetic to the building. Andrew took the project’s architects and designers on tours of other downtown fixtures, such as antique stores The Barn and The Emporium, to gather inspiration.
“With the design, we really wanted something that was really open, with a lot of natural light. We have a lot of glass. We have the roll-up doors to bring in the outside,” he said. “There are trees in the back that are 40, 50 feet tall. It truly is a park-like yard.”
Construction should start in January, and they hope to open next summer.
Community weighs in
Public reaction on the Wild Blue Yonder Brewing Facebook page, which posted design mockups of the interior and exterior, has been mostly positive. Many expressed enthusiasm for a downtown tap room, but some criticized building a modern-looking structure in the historic area.
Cindy Malone, a Castle Rock resident since 1995, understands why. As a frequent patron of the Augustine, she’s sad to see it go.
“I loved that space. You know, a cozy space inside and then the garden outside,” she said. “It’s just like a little oasis.”
She’s pro-brewery, Malone said, is glad the Wassons are local and grateful they’re leaving the historic home. Still, she isn’t a fan of the future brewery’s industrial look.
“I love that it’s a local business,” she said. “Just don’t love the street front. I think it’s kind of diminishing the décor, the old town kind of feel to our main street.”
Linney hopes Castle Rock will give Wild Blue Yonder Brewing a chance. The Wassons, she said, have exciting plans and remind her of when she and her husband were first starting out.
“I remember what it was for us to be able to realize our dream and now another family is going to come in that is local,” she said.
To her customers, Linney also has some parting words. She’s thankful for their support, and she plans to continue relationships with many of them.
“I never thought I’d get emotional,” Linney said, pausing to reflect on their customer base over the years. “They made it worthwhile. They made the journey easier.”