Safety standards at State Bridge Lodge high, owner says |

Safety standards at State Bridge Lodge high, owner says

Veronica Whitney

Approval of a liquor license renewal for the lodge, which is still allowed to serve alcohol, is pending an investigation by Eagle County officials. The case centers around whether the establishment over-served a Vail man before he was killed in a car accident in June.

A public hearing before the Eagle County commissioners on the license renewal is scheduled for Aug. 20 .

John Ambrose, 23, of Vail, was killed instantly when his SUV swerved off Highway 131 and crashed. Ambrose had been drinking with friends at State Bridge Lodge before the accident happened early June 3.

“It’s a touchy subject for us,” says Bobbi Park of State Bridge Corporation. “This is our fifth renewal and we’ve never had a problem.”

The license was first issued August 1997.

State Bridge Lodge, on the banks of the Colorado River, is a big gathering place for kayakers and rafters. It is also a popular concert venue that attracts as many as 300 people on weekends during the summer.

“We do everything to make the place safe,” Parks says. “We work closely with everyone and we try to get people to camp here and not drive.”

Parks says they work closely with the Bureau of Land Management in managing the campgrounds. The lodge also has nine cabins for rent for $42 to $150 a night.

“Once we run out of cabins, we encourage people to camp. The camping is free,” Parks says.

Establishments that sell alcohol must renew their liquor license every year.

The county is investigating because Ambrose’s blood-alcohol level was so high, says Earlene Roach, county liquor inspector with Eagle County. Ambrose’s blood alcohol level was 0.320, more than three times the 0.10 legal limit in Colorado.

Ambrose was last seen at State Bridge late on June 2. Police reports says he was driving south on Highway 131 at as much as twice the 40 mph speed limit when his 1995 GMC Yukon traveled out of control for approximately 455 feet before going airborne for approximately 182 feet north of Wolcott. He died of head and neck injuries.

Kim Hiler, Ambrose’s girlfriend, had been partying with him that night and stayed at State Bridge Lodge when he left. She told police she hadn’t noticed Ambrose being or acting intoxicated. Police couldn’t find bar tabs or tickets for Ambrose at State Bridge Lodge, Roach’s report says.

But police found four beer cans at the scene, which, police thinks came

“We’re not exactly sure at what time he left and that’s very important,” Parks says. “And police found four empty beer cans in his car. So the time he left could be very important.”

In her report to county commissioners, Roach says she’s concerned with possible over-service of alcohol.

Parks says the night of June 2 had been a very slow night with about 120 people.

“That night we had a full staff and they would have noticed if somebody had been that drunk,” she says.

Parks says several of her employees regularly take part in an alcohol awarenes program offered by the county.

“We also serve food until 10 p.m. and have complimentary chips throughout the night,” Parks says. “The whole staff is saddened. I drive by the place of the accident several times a day and it’s very disturbing. But we did everything we could.”

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at

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