Fearing sale, workers dream of a utopian future for Minturn Saloon | VailDaily.com
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Fearing sale, workers dream of a utopian future for Minturn Saloon

'Save the Saloon' solution seen in employee-owned co-op

Minturn Saloon workers Erin Kelly, right, and Daniella Bellerose at the Minturn Saloon. The workers are fearing the Minturn Saloon could be changed or done away with under new owners and are trying to raise enough funds to convert the business into an employee-owned establishment.
Courtesy photo

MINTURN — An employee-owned co-op with worker-elected managers. A historical board overseeing the presentation and preservation of all artifacts. A guarantee of perpetuity for the establishment’s beloved status quo.

These are among the dreams for a utopian future at the Minturn Saloon, one in which the 120-year old building, one of the last vestiges of the Wild West in Eagle County, continues to be operated just as it is now, greeting Minturn Mile riders with chips and margaritas after their adventure.

To save the saloon, its current employees are looking to the place where dreams come true in the social media age: GoFundMe.com. Their spokesperson, Saloon worker Daniella Bellerose, said a worker-owned future for the restaurant would be the best-case scenario.



“I wouldn’t want to become a sole restaurant owner,” Bellerose said. “I’ve been in the business for 30 years; I know better.”

A cooperative ownership model, however, where employees share in the revenue, could create an environment where each employee is invested in the health of the business.



Bellerose said a desirable outcome would see a portion of the profits reinvested in the business, pursuing such endeavors as a historical designation for the building, (“it is a museum,” Bellerose said, with emphasis on “is”) and the remaining profits would be split among the governing board, which is the employees.

The Minturn Saloon is one of the last vestiges of the Wild West in Eagle County.
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It’s a situation the saloon’s lovers might be inclined to preserve through crowd-sourced funds, because in addition to the Saloon’s unique character, the employees there have longevity not often seen in the Vail-area service environment.

“We’ve had restaurant employees that have been there for 36 years, 28 years, 17 years,” Bellerose said. “At six and a half years, I’m a newbie still.”

Bellerose said a desirable outcome would see a portion of the profits reinvested in the business, pursuing such endeavors as a historical designation for the building, (“it is a museum,” Bellerose says, with emphasis on ‘is’) and the remaining profits would be split among the governing board, which is the employees.

“Honestly it could make it the best restaurant in the valley, for sure,” Bellerose said. “Because everybody’s involved. It wouldn’t be like ‘I dropped the silverware in the trash? Ahh screw it.'”

GoFundMe ‘Like the Packers’

But where would that leave all the heroes who donate to the GoFundMe to save the Minturn Saloon?

“It’d be like the Green Bay Packers,” Bellerose said.

In that way, contributors would receive a share in the company, but that share would not pay dividends.

Sports Illustrated describes the Packers’ stock as a chance for people to receive “a souvenir certificate to hang up on the wall, the chance to buy exclusive shareholders-only merchandise and an invite to the annual shareholders meeting at Lambeau Field during training camp.”

Bellerose thinks something similar could be enough to entice the Minturn Saloon’s thousands of dedicated patrons to contribute to saving it.

“I just don’t want to go away,” Bellerose said.

And that is a possibility. Bellerose says you don’t have to venture far from the Saloon to see examples of cherished establishments lost to modernization.

Ways of seeing

As writer John Berger describes in the book “Ways of Seeing,” the way people see things “is affected by what we know or what we believe.”

In Minturn, seeing the saloon’s museum-like atmosphere in a meaningful way is reliant on the employees and what they know.

Also, the margaritas are really good.

As you enjoy a margarita at the bar, you might see the autographed pictures of the baseball players and perceive them to be the ordinary wall hangings of a Yankee fan from yesteryear.

But viewed through the lens of history in Minturn, imbued with what we know from those who work there, we learn that the saloon is Eagle County’s big connection to the Yankees, as it was owned and operated by former Yankee Bob Cherry from 1976 to 1986. Cherry was friends with John Wayne, which is how Wayne’s autographed picture would come to adorn the place.

Cherry’s short tenure in the building’s long history as a restaurant and bar is just one of a number of interesting pieces of history dating back to the 1830s, when the back bar was “built in Missouri and arrived here after a stay in Leadville,” you’ll learn from employees. The building was constructed in 1901 following a fire in the downtown commercial section of Minturn in 1899.

Minturn Saloon’s current owners took over after Cherry in 1986 and are beloved by the employees, Bellerose said, but after 35 years the owners feel they need to move on from the business. While any investor idea is welcome, the current staff is afraid an alternative to the employee-owned model could threaten what gives the business its current character.

“We love our jobs, and we love the people that come in,” Bellerose said.


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