Members Only; Local FAC tradition near and dear to a beer-drinker’s heart |

Members Only; Local FAC tradition near and dear to a beer-drinker’s heart

Elizabeth Rackoff

Fridays are special. Who cares if you have to work Saturday, or you haven’t worked since Wednesday ” Fridays carry a certain cache of relief that transcends actual schedules.

“I don’t have to be part of a club to have fun on Friday afternoons,” Chris Belk, new to the valley, said. He obviously hasn’t experienced the summer season in Eagle County, specifically, the part of the summer season fondly referred to as FAC, or Friday Afternoon Club. To be a member simply show up with a smile.

In the loosest sense of the concept, FAC involves a bit of sunshine, some drinks and friends. But the true spirit of the FAC tradition includes live music, food and drink specials, and being in the fresh Colorado air. Spending time at various establishments around town, you can find a variety of friends, old and new. The summer days are long ones, so the party starts in time to see a western sunset.

Plenty of restaurants and bars in the valley offer Friday night specials, including the Wolcott Yacht Club, Eagle’s Nest on Vail Mountain, Garfinkel’s in Lionshead, Gore Range Brewery in Edwards, and Finnegan’s Wake in Avon.

According to Gore Range Brewery owner Jim Errant, basking in the long-lasting sun while celebrating the end of the week is what a Friday afternoon at the brewery is all about. He’s lived in the state for more than 30 years and is in tune with the Colorado lifestyle.

“Friday Afternoon Clubs seem to be more of a Colorado thing than anywhere else I’ve ever been,” said Errant. “They’re much better here than in any other city.”

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As a result of his experience, he’s designed the brewery to draw people young and old for music, appetizer and drink specials, and the enjoyment of the outdoors. The valley’s only brew pub, Gore Range has a large selection of their own beers, and a decent bottle selection, too. The deck is south-facing, which allows the brewery crowd sun until it dips below the mountain peaks.

The Wolcott Yacht Club channels the spirit of the islands, and passes it right on to the crowd. Usually the busiest of FAC parties, there’s a plethora of fish tacos, oysters on the half shell, buckets of Coronitas, and the sound of New Orleans Zydeco tunes coursing through the air.

The cozy establishment tucked into the curve of the road offers an outdoor patio with flagstone landscaping, complete with views of the Eagle River. The Yacht Club has four bars, each featuring different specials. Seafood lovers should beat a path to the oyster bar, which includes oysters on the half shell, grilled fish, peel-and-eat shrimp, and a seafood boil. Landlubbers can dive into burgers and cheese platters. This season, the Yacht Club has added a Colorado beer to its lineup: Steamworks Brewing Company out of Durango.

Why do people head west on Fridays?

“They know they’re going to see their friends here,” Jan Jouflas, owner of the Wolcott Yacht Club, said. In addition to Zydeco bands, Jouflas books all sorts of dance-inducing music.

Live bands are a point of pride for the folks at Eagle’s Nest FAC at Adventure Ridge, but the list of offerings goes on. Those craving activity can play horseshoes, volleyball, indoor laser tag or just dance, dance, dance. FAC begins June 30 and lasts until August. The Lionshead Gondola shuttles people up the mountain to the festivities. It’s free after 4 p.m., and no extra charge for the stellar alpine views.

You don’t have to be on top of the mountain to appreciate the alpine scene. At the base of the Gondola is Garfinkel’s, and nothing interrupts the view of the hill and the beating sun. They become a tiki lounge on “Fishbowl Fridays.” The name comes from the vessel used as drink glasses. Guests can put anything they want in the fishbowl, but they have to mix in some juice if they’re going for hard liquor.

Garfinkel’s hasn’t participated in FAC since the old gondola closed down in 1997, but they’re in full swing again. They’re collaborating with Samana on Bridge Street with musicians. Live music can be heard on Garf’s sunny deck from 3-8 p.m., and the same performer moves to Samana for late night..

Finnegan’s Wake brings a bit of bonny Ireland to the mountains. The newest deck in Avon, beer specials and a DJ on the deck complete the FAC experience. After the sun sets check out the inside downstairs bar and you can dance to the music until midnight.

For more information on Friday parties, contact the establishments. And even though the sun’s going down, don’t forget the sunscreen.

Vail, Colorado