Aspen’s Red Onion to open in July |

Aspen’s Red Onion to open in July

Carolyn Sackariason/The Aspen TimesThe tile floor in the historic Red Onion in Aspen has been restored and a refurbished bar is back in its place. The restaurant and bar's proprietor, Scott DeGraff, is waiting on the arrival of kitchen equipment, furniture and lighting before Junk at the Red Onion opens.

ASPEN, Colorado ” After falling a few months behind schedule, the newly renovated Red Onion won’t likely open until mid-summer.

The historic Aspen bar has been closed for more than two years, and the proprietor of the new restaurant and bar that will set up shop in the popular watering hole said he is as eager as anyone to open.

“No one wants it more than we do,” said Scott DeGraff, owner of Junk at the Red Onion. “We are coming soon.”

DeGraff last year had estimated that he would open Junk in early 2009. It then got pushed back to the spring and now the target is sometime in July.

“If life was perfect it would be the third week of July,” DeGraff said.

Renovating an 118-year-old building that has had little improvements made to it over the decades was a tedious and time-consuming process. But most of the work is complete; the bar refinished, and most of the historic tiles on the barroom floor placed back in the original pattern.

“No one said it was going to be easy,” DeGraff said of the renovation.

Now, all DeGraff is waiting for is the lighting system, kitchen equipment and furniture.

Once the lighting is installed, the ceiling will be closed up and the rest will be completed in sequential order.

In the meantime, there is not much activity happening. On a recent afternoon, there was only one worker in the building.

Hansen Construction, the general contractor on the project, has taken its crew off the job until there is work to be done.

“Not a bunch of things are happening,” said Jerry Cavaleri, the project manager. “It’s going pretty slow.”

Hansen has been contracted with Ron Garfield and Andy Hecht, the owners of the building, to do most of the exterior and interior work, including mechanical and electrical upgrades.

DeGraff said there’s no point in having people on the clock if there is no work for them.

“It costs huge money for the general contractor for people to sit around and do nothing,” he said. “There is no more busy work over there.”

DeGraff, who opened Liquid Sky and Junk in Snowmass late last year, said having those establishments open for the past few months has given the public a sneak preview of what’s to come in the Red Onion location.

DeGraff also recently transformed the former Cooking School of Aspen into his signature N9NE Steakhouse, which has provided an opportunity for his staff to remain employed and serve as a training ground for them.

He said he plans to re-open Junk and Liquid Sky in Snowmass in the coming weeks for the summer season.

But what DeGraff won’t do is open the new Red Onion before it’s ready. The opening of the Snowmass establishments were rushed, he added.

“Obviously it’s a little later than expected,” he said. “It is what it is. At the end of the day this place is going to be around a long time.”

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