Though it’s unclear whether there will be a restaurant operation in the Little Annie’s location this winter, one thing is certain: There will be an auction of the East Hyman Avenue tavern’s equipment, dining-room furniture, alcohol and other assets today at 11 a.m.
On Monday, “Buster” Cattles, an auctioneer based in Grand Junction, was busy preparing for the state Department of Revenue’s event. He and an associate were busy tagging plates, pots and pans, kitchen stoves, liquor bottles, Old West memorabilia and hundreds of other items.
Money raised from the auction will be applied toward a debt of $44,551, along with other fees, that accumulated when the restaurant failed to pay its state sales taxes from April to August. The state shuttered the 41-year-old restaurant, which some consider a local institution, on Oct. 15.
Daria Serna, spokeswoman for the state Revenue Department, said Monday that the items can be sold either in bulk or individually. At the start of the auction, bids will be taken on bulk sales. Following that, the auction will proceed on each individual item or sets of items, such as plates. If more money is raised through individual sales, the bulk bids will be nullified.
Any revenue that exceeds the state sales tax bill becomes subject to a state District Court decision in Denver, Serna said. Historically, municipalities that are owed back sales taxes are second in line for any extra revenue, but the decision is up to whichever District Court judge is assigned to the case.
Serna said in the case of Little Annie’s, it’s doubtful but possible that the auction will raise more than what is owed to the state. Little Annie’s Restaurant LLC, the most recent owner of the bar and restaurant, also owes the city of Aspen more than $12,000 in sales taxes, according to the City Attorney’s Office.
Another question surrounding the situation is whether the owners of the building at 517 E. Hyman Ave., where Little Annie’s is housed, will step up to make a bulk bid for the assets in an attempt to work with the estimated 40 employees to keep the restaurant open this winter, local attorney Jeff Wertz said Monday.
The building is owned by Aspen Core Ventures LLC, whose managing partner is Nikos Hecht. Wertz has been working with former Little Annie’s employees on issues related to lost wages and benefits.
Last week, Little Annie’s general manager Rohn Fleming told about two dozen employees that he was working with the building owner’s property manager to try to reopen Little Annie’s and operate it until the end of March. Whether the restaurant still would be called Little Annie’s is not known; a new company would have to be created, and Little Annie’s Restaurant LLC has legal rights to the name. A major renovation of the building is set to begin in April.
Fleming was reached by an Aspen Times reporter Monday afternoon but said he did not have time to talk. Later attempts to reach him were unsuccessful.
Wertz said he didn’t know how the new development concerning the bulk bid would affect the auction. He has advised Little Annie’s employees to try to buy back any restaurant items that belong to them for a nominal price, but now he is concerned that too many individual buyers might upset any possible bulk bid — and, along with it, the chance that the restaurant and bar might reopen for a few months this winter.