Nightclub mogul to awaken sleepy Snowmass Village?
Vail, CO Colorado
SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colorado ” It seems nightclub baron and restaurateur Scott DeGraff might soon bring the first “recreational shower” to Snowmass Village. But the Snowmass Town Council has drawn the line at flaming trees.
The successful entrepreneur has elaborate plans for a restaurant and nightclub at the base of Fanny Hill. But Snowmass residents and town officials seem split between enthusiasm for the hip project and concern over some of its more outlandish ” and arguably less-family friendly ” elements.
DeGraff, a Snowmass resident, owns Fun Worldwide LLC, an Aspen-based hotel and restaurant development company that operates more than two dozen ritzy nightclubs and restaurants around the country. Among them is what DeGraff claims is the world’s only Playboy Club, at The Palms in Las Vegas.
DeGraff plans to build a restaurant called Junk and a nightclub named Liquid Sky at the base of Fanny Hill by next ski season. Junk will serve alcohol and healthy, organic food, and DeGraff promises families will find it affordable. The name, he says, is a play on the phrase “junk food.” Liquid Sky will be an indoor-outdoor lounge offering all-day dining, lounging, apres-ski, dancing and special events.
DeGraff also plans to open Junk at the Red Onion in the former Red Onion space in downtown Aspen. Also on tap in the next year is the reopening of the Aspen Cooking School under the guise of the Fun Worldwide Laboratory. It will become a high-tech test kitchen for new foods, featuring famous chefs and educational programming, among other things.
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DeGraff appeared before the Snowmass Town Council on Monday to discuss his proposed changes to the Base Village building across the plaza from The Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center.
Speaking extemporaneously, DeGraff enthused about his desire to bring something “innovative” and “creative” to Snowmass.
“I have high expectations. I need this place to be spectacular,” he said.
But several people voiced concern that the project was not in keeping with Snowmass’ family-oriented, ski-focused community.
Councilwoman Sally Sparhawk voiced the strongest objections to his projects, arguing that “[Snowmass] is not New York.”
“The shower is a joke,” she said, referring to DeGraff’s plan for an outdoor shower that he likened to the Aspen fountain. “Overall, I burst out laughing when I read this.”
Councilman Reed Lewis suggested that DeGraff’s plan to keep the restaurant and nightclub open year-round was unwise. In the offseason, sometimes only three or four people might be out on a given night, Lewis argued.
“Good luck,” he said.
Councilman John Wilkinson argued that outdoor music until late hours might disturb children and avid skiers alike.
“Ski lifts open at 8:30 a.m., and this is a serious ski area,” he said.
Robert Sinko, general manager of the nearby Crestwood condominiums, also worried about noise from the music and television speakers on the patio, which he argued would be only 200 feet from many of the Crestwood condominiums. He said, however, that he generally supports the project.
Second-home owner Colleen Doyle suggested DeGraff’s advertising was inconsistent with the way he was representing the businesses to the council. In particular, she worried the establishments wouldn’t be family-oriented enough for Snowmass.
But ultimately, most council members were generally enthusiastic about DeGraff’s innovation, despite taking issue with some of the details.
Chief among their concerns were the outdoor shower, late-night outdoor music, outdoor lighting and fire elements (including flaming torches, trees and cauldrons, a fire trough and a fire pit designed for roasting s’mores).
On the issue of outdoor music and television, council members first decided to implement a 10 p.m. curfew for the outdoor speaker system. However, an impassioned DeGraff pleaded to keep the curfew at 11 p.m. “until I prove you wrong by being too loud.”
Arguing that the curfew was a “Utah-type maneuver,” DeGraff said he would struggle to book corporate events with such an early curfew, and he pointed out that other businesses were not being held to this standard.
“I don’t think it’s fair that I’m the one who gets this when this is not the law of the village,” he said.
Council members agreed to forgo the curfew in lieu of an annual temporary-use permit that would require softly played music. They also decided to assign a temporary-use permit to the outdoor lighting to ensure that they would be softly glowing, slowly changing lights.
DeGraff also agreed to eliminate many of the open-fire elements, which council members and staff argued were not consistent with the town’s attempts to promote environmental sustainability. The flaming trees, cauldrons and trough will go ” but the flaming torches and fire pit appear to be staying.
In response to the council’s concerns that the outdoor shower might not promote a family atmosphere, DeGraff compared the amenity to Aspen’s fountain, used by many children to cool off on hot days.
“I think people are letting their imaginations run amuck,” he said.
But after the council decided the shower could stay, Lewis jokingly noted that he’d like to “host the first contest.” The comment referenced an earlier statement from a resident who said she didn’t think the shower was just an excuse for wet T-shirt contests.
The town of Snowmass and DeGraff will now iron out the record of decision, as edited at Monday’s meeting. Once it is signed, it will be an enforceable document.