Getting to know … The Red Lion
The Red Lion began as the Red Lion Inn, built in 1962 by Larry and Marge Burdick, who wanted to open a restaurant and lodging facility back when Vail first became a ski resort. The Red Lion Building, along with Pepi’s, are two early Vail Village buildings that are still standing. The Burdicks, however, had seven children, who occupied most of the space upstairs, leaving no room at the inn for guests.
The downstairs bar and restaurant took off almost immediately as one of the first and most central meeting places for the pioneers who would put Vail on the map.
Aside from a cozy bar atmosphere, the Red Lion also served as the first medical clinic in Vail. The first baby to be born in Vail, Karl Eaton, was delivered there. His baby picture hung on the wall of the Red Lion until recently, when Eaton himself went and removed it because it was the only copy of the photograph. Earl Eaton, Karl’s father, was a founding father of Vail.
The Red Lion continued to make a name for itself as Vail grew as a town and ski resort. Vail has consistently been ranked in the top three ski areas for many years, and the Lion has been named one of the top apres ski bars in North America. Sometime in the early ’70s, the building was renovated, transforming the front patio into the current glass-enclosed bar area.
In 1980, the Burdicks sold the Red Lion, and it changed hands several times over the next few years, its reputation suffering. In 1988, the Danenhauers and the Moores of Topeka, Kan., bought the Lion and built its name back up again.
In 2000, the Red Lion came under its current ownership of Phil and Jenn Long. Phil has been performing at the Red Lion for over 20 years, and according to Gerry Shea, a manager, Phil’s hair has a history all its own.
Manager Angela Werner said that the Lion can hold about 335 people at legal capacity. Turned over three or four times, the restaurant will serve over 1,000 guests on a busy winter day. Werner said that the Lion employs over 100 people from all over the world, including Scott “Weazel” Savage, a bartender who has worked there since 1993.
“I’ve been here almost 16 years,” he said. “That’s a long time to work in one restaurant. I wouldn’t be able to stay here if it wasn’t such a fun environment.”
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