Junk at the Red Onion to open in 2009
September 2, 2008
ASPEN ” Red Onion fans will have to wait until next year before their beloved watering hole opens again.
Scott DeGraff, proprietor of Junk at the Red Onion, said the historic building’s renovation will be complete in early 2009.
“It will be open the first quarter,” he said. “We are going to be open soon, everyone is ready to crank.”
He added it’s been a tough summer for crews excavating the basement. The rubble in the building’s underbelly has been dug out by hand, and placed in buckets and shipped out on a conveyor belt.
“This one needed to be taken to its bone and rebuilt,” DeGraff said of the 116-year-old building.
The city’s Community Development Department and the Historic Preservation Commission have signed off on the redevelopment plans, including the interior design.
DeGraff has enlisted Chicago-based 555 Fabrication Management to design the bar and restaurant. The firm has designed numerous restaurants and bars for DeGraff around the country.
Aspen-based Poss Architecture also is assisting in the Red Onion renovation, said DeGraff, who described his company’s approach to interior design for its establishments as “kooky” and “unorthodox.”
The front half of Junk at the Red Onion will give a nod to the past, with old boxer photos, a restored historic bar, a tin ceiling and other Aspen artifacts. There will be a second bar in the back portion of the restaurant, which will have oak floors. DeGraff noted that most of the old tile throughout the bar area was destroyed over time and couldn’t be salvaged but some has been restored.
“You want to pay homage to the past but also move into the future,” DeGraff said.
A glassed-in kitchen will let patrons watch chefs make their creations. A mirror will hang on the wall that allows a flat-screen television to pop out when in use.
DeGraff said meticulous detail is being given to keep the same feel as the original Red Onion.
“A lot of people don’t know what is coming, but what we are building is the original Red Onion,” he said. “I feel privileged to be in this space … All I care about is living up to the aura of the place.
“You are going to feel the Red Onion vibe.”
The new Red Onion establishment will be similar to what DeGraff is opening this winter at Snowmass’ Base Village ” Junk, which will serve natural and organic fare and will have alcohol service.
The 10,000-square-foot space in Base Village, located just below the gondola, is two levels and will have four bars, including one outside where there will be lounges and private cabanas.
DeGraff said Junk at the Red Onion will have a late-night menu, which would include hamburgers (made with grass-fed beef) after 11 p.m., and other items such as omelets.
“It’s a place where you can have a $1,000 bottle of wine and a burger,” he said, adding most of the fare will be mid-priced. “We never define having fun by how much money you spend.”
DeGraff owns Fun Worldwide LLC, an Aspen-based hotel and restaurant development company. He also has taken over the former Aspen Cooking School at 414 E. Hyman Ave. Renamed the Fun Worldwide Lab, it will be open to the general public for cooking classes in October. It will be a high-tech test kitchen for new foods, featuring famous chefs and education programming, among other things.
DeGraff also will open Liquid Sky, an indoor-outdoor lounge, that will morph with Junk into one entertainment facility that will offer all-day dining, lounging, apres ski and special events in Snowmass.
The Red Onion closed its doors March 31, 2007, after operator Dave “Wabs” Walbert’s lease expired and the rent was being increased substantially by the building’s owners, Andy Hecht and Ron Garfield. Wabs had owned the popular eatery and watering hole for more than two decades.
DeGraff lives in Aspen with his wife and children. He and his childhood friend from Chicago, Michael Morton, are co-founders and principals of the N9NE Group, which owns the N9NE Steakhouse, the Playboy Club, Rain nightclub, Nove Italiano Restaurant, Ghostbar, Palms Pool and Bungalows, and Moon nightclub in the Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
The partners also opened the N9NE Steakhouse, Ghostbar, Nove Italiano and the Liquid Sky nightclub in Dallas.