OPINION: Horsefly, PD; Brown honored

Horsefly Brewing owner Phil Freismuth stands behind his patio bar. (Stephen Woody/Special to the Montrose Daily Press)

Good afternoon, Montrose.

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Butter Side Up……Check the calendar, and you’ll know that today is National Beer Day. Comes but once annually, though many embrace the recognition and bend an elbow all year long. We all have a jones to get back to life as we knew it. Why, there’s even fresh sarsaparilla at Horsefly Brewing Company these days.

One positive upshot from the pandemic is that it pushed Phil and Melanie Freismuth, owners of the Horsefly, to expand because they needed more outdoor seating. Likely at some point — think summer — those seats will be filled. If you drive by in the evenings these days, it’s already a lively setting.

“The yurt people were busy, local contractors were busy, and we had a need to take the roof out and provide more seats with the various capacity levels. It was about survival,” said Freismuth recently. Along with Curt Frazier the contractor, Horsefly expanded with more enclosed (out of doors) seating with heaters. Attractive lighting was added and there’s artificial turf on the way to add some comfort and color. There’s a new stage for live music.

The Freismuths also added a host system “so we can help the kitchen catch up with orders,” he added. At its peak, and with no virus restrictions, the Horsefly will be able to seat about 150.

The Horsefly opened Sept. 9, 2009 near Turner Automotive on East Main. A year later, the Freismuths moved their brewery into the old Kentucky Fried Chicken building at the corner of East Main and Junction and added a restaurant. It was the first brewery in Montrose.

Four years later, the Horsefly expanded, adding a second location at the Montrose Regional Airport. It’s typically one of the first and last businesses travelers visit in and out of MTJ. In 2018, the Freismuths opened Phelanie’s, a speakeasy, across the street. There are only two speakeasies in western Colorado, the other in Durango. It’s much different — cozier, a quiet bar section and with seating for 42 on comfy couches and on a coveted row of ballpark stadium seats. It’s easy to imagine a dose of propitious romance being fomented therein. Phelanie’s motto: No Snitches Allowed. Well, there you go.

Phil and Melanie married in 1987 and have four children and five grandchildren. Some of the Freismuth progeny are brewing Horsefly products, like the sarsaparilla I enjoyed. (Sometimes, you just need a sweet beverage. Eat your heart out, Dr. Pepper.)

Many know Phil was a sergeant at the Montrose Police Department before getting into the brewpub biz. Sixteen years ago, there was a domestic disturbance involving a perp, a knife, an assault and some Tasers. Sgts. Rick LaPena, Freismuth and officer John Bennett responded. Everyone lived; Sgt. Rick LaPena was stabbed during the affray. (The knife hit his armored vest hard enough to “knock the air out of me” and raised a blood blister.) For their actions, the three policemen were awarded Montrose PD’s Medal of Valor. LaPena and Bennett continue in local law enforcement. MDP archives reveal that this incident wasn’t Freismuth’s first rodeo in physically mixing it up with local scofflaws.

Business lessons from the pandemic are acute, particularly if you’re in the hospitality business. Some staff members had to be laid off during the shutdown and slowdown, but eventually they were brought back. Ten employees have been with the Freismuths since the jump 12 years ago.

“I learned to be a better businessman,” said Phil. “You have to watch expenses. Shut off utilities when you leave, tighten the screws. I learned I didn’t need 140 channels of TV to run a bar. It’s about being patient.”

Soon enough, there will be live music on the weekends and the always-soulful, ever-friendly Donny Morales hosting the open mic night on Wednesdays. (Methinks Donny likely won’t sing “Mustang Sally” anymore.)

Phil credits the Horsefly’s survival to the employees. “You take care of them, they’ll take care of you,” he added. “It’s a family business. Our employees make our business.”

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Butter Side Up, Continued……As ground-breakings go, it was on point: the weather was good, the ground underneath already conditioned so the shovels worked smoothly. It was a good-sized crowd (150-plus) and the speeches and recognitions were short and sweet. The City of Montrose began another step toward its new police department building with a ceremony Monday. Montrose voters approved the construction of the facility November, 2019. That election seems like it was eons ago, given the fatigue of the pandemic and how it put everything on hold in 2020.

“I’m 100 percent invested in this project now as then,” said Phoebe Benziger, one of the co-chairs of the One Community Safer Together — Yes on 2A campaign. The other being David Reed who also attended the groundbreaking.

The passage of 2A has put more officers on the streets and in schools; it has added more crime analysis support and more police equipment to the toolbox. The construction of the police station is expected to take a year.

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Even More Butter Side Up……Coincidental with the groundbreaking, was the retirement ceremony of Judge Richard Brown. His last day on the Montrose Municipal Court will be April 15.

Former Montrose police chief Tom Chinn and Sheriff Gene Lillard, each with uniform sleeves thick with service chevrons reflecting 80 combined years of local police work, swore in Judge Brown as an honorary deputy with the city and county.

“I couldn’t ask for a better friend,” Chinn told the crowd at Centennial Plaza, across the street from the forthcoming police headquarters. “He’s seen a little bit of everything,” Brown has served as a judge in county, district and municipal courts since first being appointed by Gov. Richard Lamm in 1975.

Judge Brown was kidded about being somewhat loquacious during his days on the bench. He told the gathering he’d keep his speech short. “It’s one of the few times I’m speechless,” he noted.

Brown was emotional as well, citing local law enforcement. “I’m so proud of them,” said Brown. “I want the public to keep in their hearts and know the risks they take every day.”

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