Red Cliff landmark shutting doors |

Red Cliff landmark shutting doors

Cliff Thompson
NWS Reno's 3-7 CS Vail Daily/ Coreen Sapp L-R: Jason, George, Edna and Josef Salazar.

It’s a local mindset that if you’re a newcomer to the area and you haven’t been to the Reno in Red Cliff, you haven’t been anywhere.

But if you’re putting a trip there into your personal digital assistant as “must do” you’ll have schedule it before April 7 because the Reno is under contract to be sold that day and the restaurant, more than 130 years old, will be no more.

For owners George and Emma Salazar, who have worked at the business full-time since 1985, selling the building and closing the Reno is a bittersweet proposition.

“I’m happy, but it still hurts,” he said. “It’s like losing your best friend, but it’s time for a change after all these years. We want to spend some more time with our family.”

The Reno has been in Salazar’s family since 1969 and before that it was run by a relative. The building has that ancient and rough-cut ambiance no interior designer can create.

Avon’s Frank Doll, 81, remembers visiting the Reno when he was a teenager. He had a job hauling hay from Gypsum to the mine at Gilman where it was used to feed the mules that hauled ore cars. When the truck was unloaded he’d go to one of the two sawmills in Red Cliff and fill up the truck with wood at the McCloud Mill for the return trip, then he’d have lunch at the Reno.

“In the old days it was a pretty rough place,” he said. “I can’t ever remember it not being there.”

‘Food was outstanding’

In recent years it has been local’s getaway for those bent on escaping the glitzy resort town crowds. “It felt like a road trip to go the Reno for dinner – it was an excursion and adventure,” said Red Cliff resident Caroline Bradford.

The history of the place has some decades-long gaps in it. The Reno likely had its start in the 1870s, when mining was king, Salazar said, although he and others aren’t sure of the exact date it opened. It has seen several mining booms and busts and The Reno, along with Red Cliff, has endured the transition from a mining, timber and railroad-supported economy to one supported by Lycra-clad tourists and locals.

One thing, though, hasn’t changed in all the years, Doll said.

“The food was outstanding,” he said.

And that’s because of the proprietary touch in the kitchen. It’s one of those immutable laws of running a restaurant.

George and Emma Salazar prepare all the food for the 70-seat restaurant themselves, from the burrito locos to the chips and salsa, and they do it six days a week. On top of that, he works at the Vail Golf Course in the warm months and she works as the cafeteria manager of the Avon Elementary School.

“I’ve got kids in college and kids in school, you’ve gotta pay for that,” George Salazar said. He even found the time to serve as Red Cliff’s mayor for eight years and on the Eagle County School Board for 12.

In the winter the Reno is a popular stop with snowmobilers using Camp Hale and Shrine Pass, and in summer it’s four-wheelers and mountain bikers settling in for a good feed at the end of a long ride.

Hollywood connection

Red Cliff resident Sol Paradise, 25, will be purchasing the building and said he intends to leave the downstairs bar portion untouched but he wants to convert the upstairs into a residence.

“It was for sale for quite a while,” Paradise said. ” I didn’t have any interest in running a restaurant and George didn’t want to sell the business.”

Paradise owns a building demolition business during the summers and in winter works as a Hollywood stuntman. Most recently he worked on Russell Crowe’s “Master and Commander.”

“At first, I didn’t like the idea (of buying it)” he said. “If it were someone else buying it, it wouldn’t be the Reno any more.”

Paradise said one movie producer he knows wants to use the downstairs bar portion of the building to film some fight scenes for a movie.

“That could be pretty cool,” he said.

Salazar said he and his wife will take some keepsakes -the jukebox and pinball machine and football trophies – and that’s about it. What will his customers remember about the Reno?

“They’re going to remember the good food, the drinks and feeling at home when they were there,” he said.

Paradise owns several other properties in Red Cliff.

Cliff Thompson can be reached via e-mail at: or by calling 949-0555 ext. 450.

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