Chili Willy’s in Minturn closes after 27 years |

Chili Willy’s in Minturn closes after 27 years

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado

MINTURN, Colorado – After nearly 27 years as a Minturn institution, Chili Willy’s has shut its doors.

Al Brown, who took over as owner in 1987, said the recession essentially got the best of Chili Willy’s and he was left with no choice but to close.

Brown had been working at the Mexican restaurant almost every day for the last two years trying to keep expenses down. He found himself doing a lot of the work he would previous hire employees to do.

“I won’t miss the 12- to 16-hour days,” Brown said. “But I will miss all the customers and the employees.”

Destination guests at Vail and Beaver Creek resorts would come to Chili Willy’s over the years – so many that Brown said he has acquaintances from all over the country and around the world just from meeting them in the restaurant.

Ron Herbinger, a loyal customer for many years, was saddened to see Chili Willy’s was closed as he tried to enter on his way back to Beaver Creek from the Darius Rucker concert Thursday night.

“It was all shut down,” Herbinger said. “Those kinds of places, they’re a part of the area. It was just a sad time for me.”

Brown said if there was an economic recovery in sight, he might have held on a little bit longer. He doesn’t see it coming anytime soon, though.

“I wish I could have kept it going, but sometimes things are out of your control,” Brown said. “These are tough times for a lot of people.”

Brown said he had some personal family issues a few years ago that caused him to incur some debt, which combined with the recession, was just too much.

Brown couldn’t keep up with his rent for the space, and said the landlord needs to get somebody in there that can keep up.

He said Chili Willy’s wasn’t losing money, but it wasn’t making much. Brown just had to make the decision that it was time to let go.

He said he’s grateful for all of the loyal customers that have been going to Chili Willy’s for the last 27 years and will take with him a lot of good memories of the place.

Brown plans to spend most of the summer on the Front Range, spending time with his son and playing some golf.

“If I thought (the economy) was going to turn around quickly, I might have kept it going,” Brown said.

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at

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