Vail examines how to continue temporary structures for bars, restaurants |

Vail examines how to continue temporary structures for bars, restaurants

The town’s also working to carve out small ’common consumption’ areas

Abbey Davis, Seth Davis, Zander Davis, Kelsie Davis and William Roberts of Charlotte, North Carolina, enjoy some outside time at the Little Diner in Lionshead. Putting up temporary structures for outside sheltered dining has been a boon for smaller restaurants in town.
Mort Mulliken / Special to the Daily

Vail’s vibrancy last summer and through the winter was in part due to bending some existing rules. The question now is how to maintain that vibrancy.

Perhaps the biggest change to last summer’s rules is “common consumption areas.” Those areas allow people to wander around with an adult beverage in hand. Business owners and guests have given glowing reviews to that change. The change was enabled by an executive order from Gov. Jared Polis.

That executive order expires July 1. The Colorado Legislature is now working on a bill that would still allow restaurants and bars to offer to-go beverages.

The question then becomes where people can enjoy those beverages.

State law prohibits establishing common consumption areas in places that also have motorized vehicle traffic. That’s a problem, particularly in Vail Village. There, buses this summer will again run up and down Meadow Drive. Delivery vehicles are also allowed in the village at certain times.

Vail Town Manager Scott Robson on Tuesday told Vail Town Council members that the town could perhaps carve out some small-ish consumption zones outside areas that have motorized traffic. The job will be easier in Lionshead than in Vail Village, he added.

That’s going to take some continued work, Robson said.

Temporary structures

Another part of the resort villages’ vibrancy over the past year has been subsidizing tents and other temporary structures that allowed restaurants and bars to expand their seating areas while still providing room for social distancing.

Vail’s current rules maintain that temporary structures can only stay up for 180 days before they have to meet the town’s fire and building codes.

That 180-day mark came May 1.

Mayor Dave Chapin said he’d like to see the program continue, at least temporarily.

Councilmember Brian Stockmar said both the common consumption rules and the temporary structures have been a “significant boon” to the town’s economy.

“We need to be flexible … we need to find as many unique solutions as possible,” Stockmar added.

Councilmember Jenn Bruno, a co-owner of the Luca Bruno clothing stores in Vail Village, agreed that creative solutions need to be found.

“Our businesses are still hurting,” Bruno said, adding that the temporary tents are a “great way to keep up the customer experience.”

Matt Morgan, an owner of the Sweet Basil and Mountain Standard restaurants in Vail Village, agreed that the summer’s common consumption areas were a hit. And, he added, many customers seem to refer outdoor options.

“People will wait an hour or more for an outside table with indoor tables available,” Morgan said, adding that the tent structures “enhanced the guest experience big time.”

A boon for smaller spaces

Little Diner owner Brian Little noted his business has limited seating in the best of times. Outdoor options “helped us through the winter,” he said, adding that his business is willing to invest what’s needed to meet safety requirements.

The Little Diner is in Concert Hall Plaza on the west side of Lionshead. A structure there helped protect diners from the wind that often blows through that breezeway.

Ben Gilbert is a founding partner of Moe’s Original BBQ. That firm has a location in Lionshead.

Gilbert thanked the town for doing everything that’s been done so far.

“It’s been a huge enhancement for our business,” Gilbrt said. “We really need to figure out” a way to continue those outdoor structures, he added.

Chapin noted that the town’s “hands are kind of tied” when it comes to liquor laws. But, he added, he’d like to see options to keep the temporary structures up.

The council voted unanimously to direct town staff to work on those options and could see a package of suggestions at its next meeting, set for May 18.

Support Local Journalism