Taster’s Pizza could stay at Rio Grande Place through 2015 | AspenTimes.com

Taster’s Pizza could stay at Rio Grande Place through 2015

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times

Taster's Pizza could remain in or near its Rio Grande Place location through 2015 as the city looks to hold off on moving some of its operations into the building, officials said Monday.

City Manager Steve Barwick said the city hopes to delay moving its Building and Parking departments as long as possible, meaning Taster's could remain through 2015. The move, originally planned for spring, would have displaced a community meeting room as well.

"After that, it will depend on future decisions of (Aspen) City Council," Barwick said of Taster's future at Rio Grande.

Councilman Adam Frisch asked if it's possible to have a mobile food truck in the area if Taster's must go. Barwick said food trucks are subject to city manager approval.

"We generally don't allow a lot of that, but in this instance, if Taster's were to go away for some period of time, we could allow a cart or a truck to operate for some period of time," Barwick said.

Frisch said if the community loses an affordable restaurant, the city should work to replace it, and ideally, Taster's would have first shot.

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"If that doesn't work out for them, I'd be happy with something else coming up," Frisch said, adding that it would solve the issue of food-service loss but wouldn't solve the loss of community gathering space.

While Mayor Steve Skadron said he agreed with the sentiment surrounding the potential loss of Taster's, he argued that the community needs to consider the other side to the issue.

"Any of Taster's competitors in town — New York Pizza, Ryno's (Pies & Pints), among others — will be sitting in this chamber, saying, "You are charging me tax dollars and using it to subsidize my competition,'" Skadron said.

The space situation, he said, reflects the present rental market, in which the city is being asked to pay more for operating area. The city must match those costs, thereby evening the playing field.

"If a rate adjustment is needed, that's fine," Frisch said. "I think it's important to see if (Taster's) can stay there."

"Just so we're aware of the whole argument, it's easy to get caught up in the whole emotional side of this," Skadron said.

Councilman Dwayne Romero agreed with Frisch, saying he doesn't want to see further erosion of affordable eateries in town. He suggested the city offer a lease agreement beyond month to month, which Taster's has been subject to recently.

Councilwoman Ann Mullins said the city discussion to continue working with Taster's was started in part because of a letter from owner Stacy Forster's father.

"I'm glad we were able to keep working on it for the time being," Mullins said.

Councilman Art Daily called Taster's a highly desired community-oriented restaurant, adding that he's delighted to hear the city is exploring options to continue supporting such a product.

herk@aspentimes.com

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