Delirium Café, known for its Belgium-style beer and pink elephant logo, has chosen downtown Leesburg for its first U.S. location.
The franchise is slated to open within the next four months at 101 S. King St., the former location of Crème de la Crème.
“With all the sprawl going on outside of downtown Leesburg, it’s fun to bring something like this to the heart of Leesburg,” said Curtis Allred, the longtime Leesburg restaurateur opening the franchise. “It’s an opportunity to elevate everything in the restaurant community here in downtown.”
Allred has led some of downtown Leesburg’s most popular eating and drinking establishments. He was general manager of Fire Works Pizza for four and a half years before, in 2014, he helped open and manage Shoes Cup & Cork.
Introducing the U.S. to its first Delirium Café has been an idea five-plus years in the making for Allred. He visited the world-famous Delirium Café flagship location in Brussels, Belgium, five years ago as part of a work trip for the Tuskies Restaurant Group, which owns Fire Works Pizza, Tuscarora Mill and Magnolia’s at the Mill.
“We were sitting there having had a really fantastic time and saying there’s no reason one of these should not be in the U.S.,” he said. “Then we came back home and, for some reason, the idea just didn’t go away.”
He returned to the café a few months later, met with the owners, and later signed a franchise license agreement. The agreement collected dust over the next several years, as Allred and his wife had their fifth child and didn’t have the funding to get the operation off the ground.
“I had this idea that Delirium had to be in downtown DC or Reston, but we didn’t have several million dollars to open a restaurant like that, so we kind of shelved the idea,” he said.
Then, when Crème de la Crème moved out of the storefront on the corner of Loudoun and King streets last year after calling it home for 14 years, Allred had a revelation. “Nobody ever said that Delirium has to be huge. Here’s this building that’s got a massive amount of history, a ton of charm, and it’s the highest point in town,” he said.
The original Delirium Café in Brussels is known for its long beer list, standing at more than 2,000, according to The Guinness Book of Records. The Leesburg location will be its fourth international franchise; with others in Rio de Janeiro (2010), in Japan (2011), and in São Paulo and Warsaw (2014).
The Leesburg café is expected to be a destination place, likely drawing beer and pub-style cuisine lovers from around the Washington, DC, region and beyond. Allred said to expect a beer list featuring close to 300 beers, from all over the world, about a third of which will be Belgium beers. The café’s second floor will feature a Hoppy Loft, similar to the café in Brussels, that highlights American-style pale ales and IPAs. The second floor can also allow be reserved for private events.
Allred plans to hire a staff of about 20 to 22.
He, and Donald Devine, who owns the 101 Loudoun St. space and several other downtown buildings, said Delirium Café is one of several big things in the works to ramp up the foot traffic in downtown Leesburg.
They mentioned the tequila bar set to open early this year in Paul Reimers’ building on West Market Street, and Black Hoof Brewing, which is renovating the former Caulkins Jewelers storefront on S. King Street. Devine also noted that Nils Schnibbe, who helped open MacDowell Brew Kitchen, has signed on to rent his building at 14 Loudoun St. SE, which has housed Cajun Experience for the past seven years. Cajun Experience recently announced on its website it is closing. Schnibbe has plans for a crab shack-style restaurant there, Devine said.
“Everyone wants the spaces we have before they become available,” Devine said. “I’m more excited about Leesburg than I have been in 10 years.”
Follow updates on Delirium Café at facebook.com/deliriumcafeusa.