CHEYENNE – Plans are in motion to bring a new pizza joint with a full service bar to Cheyenne Regional Airport by late summer, bringing a long-term goal of airport staff closer to fruition.
After opening their first location in Kearney, Nebraska, earlier this week, Billy Jack’s Pizza and Pub is seeking to fill the location in the new airport terminal that was reserved specifically for a restaurant. Billy Jack’s President and CEO Bill Winberg hopes the fast casual dining establishment will eventually grow to include franchisees, and said there’s a number of reasons why Cheyenne is a good place to start.
“Cheyenne is a fast-growing town with my type of people,” Winberg said. “It’s very similar to Kearney. … The central Nebraska and Wyoming feel is all the same: it’s a Midwestern vibe, and everybody loves pizza and beer, and they trust each other.”
“I like to do business with good people, and Cheyenne is full of them,” he said.
The Cheyenne Regional Airport Board is expected to approve the Billy Jack’s concept at its meeting Thursday and put its stamp of approval on the lease agreement in May. When the new terminal was built, a space for an eatery was left undeveloped, as airport staff didn’t know what the needs of the restaurant would be.
For that reason, they set aside $250,000 to help with development costs whenever that location was filled. As the plan stands, Billy Jack’s will be reimbursed that much for the costs of developing the restaurant, with an expected completion by September or sooner – as Cheyenne Regional Airport wraps up phase one of its runway reconstruction project, which will pause some flights into the airport this summer.
Airport Manager Nathan Banton said, “The hope here is that we can hopefully develop this while we’re doing our runway construction project this summer, and then go into the end of that project with great momentum with new amenities for passengers. Hopefully, we’ll see a great flight schedule and a renewed interest in flying from the entire country and world, coming off of the COVID low.”
While the restaurant will surely serve Cheyenne Regional Airport patrons, Airport Director Tim Barth said the larger goal is for Billy Jack’s – which serves a variety of specialty pizzas, sandwiches and salads, as well as alcoholic drinks – to become a hub for the community to eat and hang out. He pointed to the now-closed Cloud 9 restaurant previously located at the airport. It was a watering hole folks around the city came to enjoy.
“We don’t want this just to be an airport restaurant,” Barth said. “We want this to be the Cheyenne destination airport where people can come out and relax, have a beer at the end of the day and watch the planes land and take off. In between the flight schedules, we’ve got plenty of parking, and it’s such a beautiful place.”
Additionally, a number of local investors, including Bryan ‘Alf’ Grzegorczyk of Alf’s Pub, are also on board, with plans for Billy Jack’s to bring a second location to Cheyenne. Both Grzegorczyk and Winberg spoke of the importance of having local support and local stakeholders on the project.
Noting the possibilities of expanded flight service once the pandemic slows and air travel picks back up, Grzegorczyk said the airport could become a great hub for the city.
“If you get local people behind it, it’s gonna be more of a success. … So we’re working with a lot of local people to get behind it by investing in it, to make it not only a business opportunity for one or two people, but for 50 people,” Grzegorczyk said.