VAIL — A Vail Village staple, almost as old as the town itself, closed its doors at the end of April.
Owners of the Ore House Restaurant on Bridge Street, known for its steaks and sunny deck, announced that it would not be renewing its lease and not re-opening in the current space. Management said that business was good, but that renewal of the lease did not work out for the business.
“It’s been a long history of great relationships born and long-lasting friendships with great stories and some unforgettable moments,” said a note on the restaurant’s website. “Apres ski will never be the same. Thanks again for the great times.”
The restaurant opened in 1968 in the village and moved to its Bridge Street location about 25 years ago, going on to become an apres ski favorite and a recognizable landmark with its flowery deck dotted with red umbrellas.
End of an era
Part owner Larry Anderson started at the restaurant as a bartender in the early ’70s and worked his way up to waiter, manager and finally partner. He remembers the days when the steakhouse was a hot spot for everyone from the rich and famous to powder-crazed locals.
“It was an era. It’s been around for a long time and I’m sad to see it go,” he said. “It was a staple around town for many years, and in the ’70s it was the place to be.”
He describes people (gladly) waiting two hours for a dinner seating, cramming into the small space and bar area.
“You couldn’t wedge yourself in. It was the local happening place, so if you had to wait, all the better, because you wanted to be part of the action,” Anderson remembered. “We had two huge guys working the door to keep things in order.”
The spot was always known for its apres offerings, steaks and, for a time, the salad bar, a novelty “that was new back then,” Anderson said.
It played host to the likes of a slew of American ski racers, who would celebrate post-race at the Ore House — President Ford’s Secret Service crew, O.J. and Nicole Simpson and movie stars such as Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman.
Anderson remembered once during the holiday rush when he was asked to go talk to Tom Cruise. The young actor had recently reached star status with the release of “Risky Business.”
“Here’s this small little kid in a one-piece shell ski outfit. He wouldn’t look me in the eye when we talked, and was mumbling, giving me this spiel I couldn’t understand,” laughed Anderson. “Finally turns out he was saying that he was Tom Cruise, and he didn’t want to be amongst a crowd, and was wondering if there wasn’t something we could do about it.”
Anderson handed Cruise over to the host and went back to the kitchen. A bit later, he went out to check on what had happened and didn’t see Cruise anywhere. He asked the bartender if she’d seen him, and she responded that Cruise had tried to buy a drink, but had no ID, so she wouldn’t serve him.
“At this point I got worried and started looking for him,” Anderson said. “I finally found him on the stairs of where Russell’s is, reading a script. We took care of him, but we thought it was pretty funny that even Tom Cruise couldn’t have dinner or even buy a drink.”
Signs of the restaurant’s existence are already mostly gone as the space is renovated. Gorsuch, which owns the building, will expand its retail shop into the now-empty space.
General manager Steve Shelman doesn’t rule out the possibility of the Ore House re-opening in the future at a different location.
“We would love to keep it. Business had been great, and it was growing,” he said. “We’ve looked at a couple other places in town, but it has to be the right spot. We won’t open a spot just to keep it open.”
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and at email@example.com.
“It’s been a long history of great relationships born and long-lasting friendships with great stories and some unforgettable moments. Apres ski will never be the same. Thanks again for the great times.”
Note on OreHouse.com