New era for Krabloonik? | AspenTimes.com

New era for Krabloonik?

Jill Beathard
Snowmass Sun

Krabloonik Restaurant & Dog Sledding operation will open this season under new ownership, thanks to conditional approval of a lease transfer by the Snowmass Village Town Council.

The town leases land to the kennel, and directors of operations Danny and Gina Phillips were waiting on a decision from the council so they could move forward with purchasing the business from owner and founder Dan MacEachen. While the council will still more thoroughly examine the transfer of ownership after the new year, it conditionally approved reassigning the lease so that the Phillipses could open Krabloonik in time for the busy holiday season.

"I think if the council wants to keep Krabloonik as a viable business and an amenity, action needs to be taken in the best possible way for Danny and Gina as the new operators to be successful," said Town Attorney John Dresser, who worked with the Phillipses and attorney David Myler, representing Krabloonik Inc., on a solution for the change in ownership.

Town Council members have said before that they want to evaluate the couple's qualifications and have open, public discussions about the future of Krabloonik, which over the years has come under fire regarding the treatment of its approximately 250 sled dogs. Most of the blame is on MacEachen, who last year was charged with eight counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty after former employees began coming forward with allegations of abuse and neglect. MacEachen will stand trial in May.

Voices for the Krabloonik Dogs, a group that advocates for better care of the animals, is "cautiously optimistic" about the new lessees, Dresser said. The group's primary concern is that the agreement could fall through and MacEachen would be back in control, members Bill Fabrocini and Leigh Vogel told the Snowmass Sun recently.

The town is attempting to address that concern. Dresser suggested that in the council's final approval, it should require that the dogs be turned over to a receiver if the Phillipses default on the note for any reason.

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The Phillipses, as managers of the business, have already enacted some changes such as starting a spay and neuter program sponsored by the nonprofit Friends of the Aspen Animal Shelter and a more organized adoption program.

If the council were to approve the conditional transfer and the Phillipses do a good job, "hopefully … we will be ready for a new era of Krabloonik," Dresser said.

The Phillipses need to be in control of Krabloonik this winter so they can "prove themselves to the community," Myler said.

"I really do believe that we're on the cusp of a transition away from a troubled past and toward a very bright future for what is truly a unique resort amenity that we need to preserve as best we can," Myler said.

The elected officials voted unanimously for the interim transfer of the lease.

"There is some risk here for the town, and yet when I think about it, the benefit of keeping Krabloonik operating and getting you guys in that position of owners, to me, outweighs the risk of what might happen to the town," said Councilman Bob Sirkus.

Bland Nesbit, of Aspen, an outspoken critic of Krabloonik and MacEachen for many years, spoke on the Phillipses' behalf at the meeting.

"I think Danny and Gina are wonderful, and I've been a big critic of Krabloonik for a long time, and they've made amazing changes and I know they want to keep making changes," Nesbit said.

jill@snowmasssun.com

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