Cooper Street lawsuit still being negotiated | AspenTimes.com

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Cooper Street lawsuit still being negotiated

ASPEN ” How city officials plan to enforce keeping the space below Cooper Street Pier a “working man’s bar” is a work in progress.

The Aspen City Council on Monday signed off on moving forward with a settlement agreement with developers who are suing the city over last year’s denial to redevelop the Cooper Street Pier building.

But before the final approval is considered on Sept. 22, issues related to the covenants of requiring the watering hole to be the “third lowest” in price of all restaurants in town, as well as setting a cap on the rent and making reasonable efforts to find a suitable tenant, will need some hashing out and simplifying.

Council members said they don’t want the city to be the ultimate enforcer of the covenants. Instead, they said the landlords should bear the burden of proving they are meeting the city’s imposed restrictions.

The settlement contemplates a deed restriction on the property that would require the basement be a 1,800-square-foot bar, restaurant or brewery.

The rent on the property can be no greater than 75 percent of the free-market rental for similar basement space in downtown Aspen ” and not greater than $50 per square foot for the first year.

In return, the City Council will allow the owners to subdivide the property and redevelop it into a mixed-use building. The settlement would include an increase in the square footage of the residential portion of the redeveloped building.

The street-level space where Cooper Street Pier bar currently exists would become a retail store. The second floor would be used as commercial or office space, with a portion of it dedicated for the free-market condo, which would be three levels.

Councilman Steve Skadron questioned that if the landlords can’t find a suitable tenant who can meet all of the restrictions on the space, city officials may not be in the position to find an alternative business.

Mayor Mick Ireland said a request for proposals surely would produce proprietors who can set up shop by paying low rent and therefore, provide low prices.

He added that a better reference is needed than comparing food prices throughout town since most of the restaurants are high-end.

Councilman Dwayne Romero expressed concern that if the city places too many restrictions on the space, few people will be able to make a successful business there. And if that’s the case, the landlords might come back and use that against the city in the future, Romero added.

Andrew Hecht, his son, Nikos Hecht, Ron Garfield and Joshua Saslove, all of whom are principals in JS Cooper Street LLC, which owns the Cooper Street Pier building, sued City Hall after the council denied their application to subdivide the property.

The settlement is with seven LLCs, which name Saslove, Garfield and both Hechts, as well as Robert Hurst and Robert Blank as managers of those corporations.

csack@aspentimes.com