This Quirky New Restaurant Was Once a Long-Abandoned Air Traffic Control Tower

(CoraReed/iStock/Getty Images Plus/GettyImages) Stapleton International Airport // Photo by CoraReed/iStock/Getty Images Plus/GettyImages

by Hugh Morris, The Telegraph, November 29, 2017

An abandoned air traffic control tower which has lain empty for 22 years has been turned into a trendy restaurant.

In addition to a dining venue and bar, the Punch Bowl Social will bring arcade games, karaoke and bowling to the disused building at the long-gone Stapleton International Airport in Denver.


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The plans were revealed earlier this year, but the “eatertainment” establishment, so named by its founders, has opened this month, retaining the original tower and using much of the former exterior of the building on the inside. The former airport was used to handle hundreds of flights a day between 1929 and 1995, and its tower now offers sterling views over the city.

“It was an exciting opportunity to give back to our home state of Colorado, and these are truly the last assembled bricks of the old airport that was so omnipresent in Denver for decades,” Robert Thompson, founder and CEO of Punch Bowl, which owns a number of restaurants across the US, told CNN.

Stapleton, which at its prime welcomed major airlines including United and Continental to its six runways, was decommissioned in 1995 and replaced by Denver International after suffering from a number of problems including lack of room for new airlines, a lawsuit over noise and inadequate separation between runways. Its last flight was a Continental service to London Gatwick.

Since then, all of the airport’s infrastructure has been removed except for the control tower.

City authorities, keen to ensure that the tower was not demolished, approached Punch Bowl Social to see if it was a viable option for a restaurant.

Rebecca Stone, from OZ Architecture, which worked on the project, said: “Designing and reusing a former airport tower is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enhance an iconic municipal structure while revitalizing that which was once abandoned.

“Maintaining [the tower's] height and design honors its historic significance, but the height and design was also limiting in some ways, so we needed to develop more creative and unusual ideas for how to use the space.”

The interior’s design is intended to hark back to the “golden age of air travel”, while an aviation-themed cocktail menu will remind punters of the building’s heritage.

abandoned airports around the world

Elsewhere in Stapleton, an area developed since the closure of the airport, are a number of new neighbourhoods, parks, schools, and even a visitor centre.

British Airways, Norwegian and American are among the airlines that fly direct to Denver International from London, should you wish to visit the Mile-High City.


This article was written by Hugh Morris from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].

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