Aspen restaurants hanging on in economic downturn
ASPEN, Colorado – As the end of the ski season nears, it’s anyone’s guess which retailers and restaurants will pack up and leave as part of the offseason shuffle, but a few high-profile ones are sticking it out – or at least trying to.
Despite the rumor circulating around town, it’s not a foregone conclusion that the Steak Pit and the Double Dog Pub are closing.
“Nothing is for sure,” said Bob Glowacki, who owns the businesses with his wife, Cindy. The Glowackis are currently trying to renegotiate their lease.
Next door at Rustique Bistro, owner Rob Ittner said he’ll remain at the Monarch Street location at least through the year.
“We are celebrating our 10th anniversary this summer and all things willing, we’re hoping to be here another 10 years,” Ittner said.
Both operators lease their spaces from local landlords Ron Garfield and Andy Hecht.
And despite rumors floating around town that Bad Billy’s on Cooper Avenue is closing to make way for a new a commercial building and condos, Joshua Saslove, part owner of the property, said he and his business partners, who include Garfield and Nikos Hecht, aren’t pursuing redevelopment yet.
Denise Walters, co-owner of Social on Hopkins Avenue, said she and her business partners were able to renegotiate their lease with landlord Bill Seguin and plan to stay put.
“He has been really fair and flexible,” she said. “He’s been working with us.”
The staying power of restaurants in Aspen is dependent upon the willingness of landlords to come down on rents. But as the economy continues to stay flat and unemployment remains high, fewer people will go to restaurants and eventually revenues will decline.
“With rents that high across the board, either there needs to be a price correction or half the restaurants will be gone,” Walters said. “Where’s Obama’s restaurant stimulus package? That’s what I want to know.”
Those involved in the commercial real estate industry say square footage rates have gone down an average of 30 percent.
Walters said she was banking on a strong March to help ensure the business’ financial stability. She added that Social’s Sunday brunches have helped that effort immensely.
Commercial real estate broker Ruth Kruger said it’s difficult to tell how the offseason will play out or whether landlords will reduce their square footage rates, but she expects many of the scenarios to be close to 2001 when tourism fell as a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“It could be the Aspen shuffle on steroids,” she said. “There have been a lot of negotiations behind the scenes and those deals are held close to the vest.”
Kruger has shown the Steak Pit space to a few interested parties but nothing has come to fruition.
She and fellow broker Karen Setterfield say they are getting a lot of calls from parties interested in renting space in downtown Aspen.
There’s also interest in various properties that are up for sale, including the newly listed D-19 and Pacifica building, which is priced at $5.8 million.
Prices have been reduced for two buildings listed for sale on the Hyman Avenue Mall, according to Setterfield. The New York Pizza building was listed for $5 million; now it’s $4 million. The building next door, where the T-shirt shop is, was $4.5 million; now it’s $3.9 million.
The commercial space in the Motherlode building is up for sale, as well as a few others.
“Usually nothing is for sale,” Kruger said. “If you are a seller, now is the time to be patient … There’s a lot of people waiting on the sidelines looking for bargains and when it hits bottom, they’ll be ready to move but sellers have to be realistic.”
One definite move as part of the off-season shuffle will be Timberline Bank, which is located in the building where the Steak Pit and Rustique are at the corner of Hopkins Avenue and Monarch Street.
Bank president Mike Taets said Timberline will move to the Aspen Athletic Club building June 1. The bank will be located in the first floor atrium space.
“The landlord there made me an offer I couldn’t refuse and this location didn’t work for us,” he said.