- Three makes a hat trick at the new Wills, featuring Fanz.
Call it a fusing of talents and resources, and of course, a mutual love of the game. Fanz Sports Grill and Will's Sports Pub are teaming up under one roof, banking on a new menu and a new image to boost lagging business.
No, owners Will Pelz, Joe Portillo and Andy Finkbeiner will not be calling their venture "Fill's" or "Wanz," but instead, something to the effect of "Will's Pub, featuring Fanz Sports Grill." Patrons will probably just call it Will's, since he retains home-field advantage in the deal.
"We've been talking about it for more than a year," says Pelz. "Our kitchen is twice as big [as Fanz's], and the seating area is three times as big. It's a big opportunity for both of us, a win-win arrangement."
Though he says he'll miss the converted firehouse on Colorado Avenue that's been home for the past three years, Portillo echoes Pelz's sanguine enthusiasm for broadening through a joint operation.
"We're gonna fire it up," says Portillo, who spent roughly 16 years cooking at the Peppertree Restaurant alongside Finkbeiner, before they opened Fanz together. "This seems like a really good opportunity to cook in a bigger kitchen."
At Fanz, the duo became known for serving the most gourmet bar food in town. Below Avalanche and Broncos jerseys tacked to the ceiling, you could find candied pecans or crab-stuffed mushrooms (which will remain a must-try at Will's). The trend will continue with Fanz at Will's with new menu items, including a return of a once-popular duck dish and new steak presentations.
"We're bringing it up one more notch," promises Portillo.
Pelz looks to the Fanz addition to account for half or more of his business. He's also aiming to boost bar business by introducing open mics and TV karaoke. Pelz still fumes when talking about this past year's smoking ban, which he says significantly hurt his business.
"There's no question of it," he says. "My business during the day and late evening has pretty much died. We've got to become an entertainment place at nighttime. [The ban] didn't hurt restaurants as much, so we're bringing one in."
Pelz is also critical of the under-supported sports-bar scene around town, which recently has seen the closing of Dewey's on Centennial Boulevard and overhaul of The Sports Page near Motor City.
"The sports thing doesn't so much work in this town," he argues. "Back east it goes crazy year-round, but here, it's either football or you're done. Football's the only sport [customers] congregate on."
Originally from a career background of advertising, Pelz says he's come to realize his mistake in marketing himself primarily as a destination for sports. He now wants to mend that with a fine-dining and music makeover, still highlighted with a few periods, quarters or innings of popular sports events.
Who wouldn't want to take in a game, knock back some competent vittles, then stay for, say, a three-piece jazz outfit all in one spot?
Citing a recent Independent article on the Springs' hungry jazz musicians, Pelz says he's also hopeful of boosting the scene.
"I want to become a breeding ground for these musicians," he says. He then adds, "I'm not here to make money. I'm here to break even, enjoy myself and make friends."
Will's Pub featuring Fanz Sports Grill
424 S. Nevada Ave., 475-2122
Restaurant open daily, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Bar open until 2 a.m.
Grand opening: Jan. 5 and 6