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Aspen chews food cart idea

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times
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ASPEN – City officials are considering a proposal to allow temporary food-vending carts at spots around downtown Aspen.

They’re weighing the vitality the carts might bring to the core against concerns about unfair competition to local restaurants and marauding bears.

The idea won general support from the Aspen Chamber Resort Association board of directors this week, though. At least, no one spoke out against the proposal.

Some ACRA board members expressed worry that the carts could compete with nearby restaurants that must pay rent in order to do business. Giving restaurants first dibs on operating a cart near their premises was suggested.

The CCLC has been given oversight of the cart proposal. Several city-owned sites where carts could be stationed are under consideration, according to Don Sheeley, a member of both the ACRA board and the city’s Commercial Core and Lodging Commission. The sites include a couple of alleyway openings, Wagner and Rio Grande parks, and at Rubey Park, the downtown bus station. A cart selling late-night food at the bus station makes sense, he said.

The particulars must be worked out before the proposal is taken to the City Council, which must approve a zoning code change to allow the temporary vendors. Allowing only carts that can be moved to a secure location and locked up at night is one idea under consideration, in order to avoid trouble with bears, said City Clerk Kathryn Koch.

The city had a taste of temporary vendors last summer. A stand selling flavored, shaved-ice concoctions had a brief, but popular run on private property near the corner of Galena and Cooper Avenues, and Dark Horse Alley, a coffee stand, made its debut in an 8-foot opening between two brick buildings on Cooper Avenue.

This winter, The Little Nell hotel has on occasion operated a coffee cart on its property on the upper gondola plaza, next to the Ajax Tavern patio.

Dark Horse owner Wendy Nanon Smith has since moved her stand to the indoor common area within the Ute City Building at Hyman and Galena. The larger space allows some table seating for her small operation. Coffee drinks and other beverages, breakfast and lunch items, and a few sweet treats make up the menu, and the space beneath a stairwell provides a tiny kitchen for food preparation.

Smith intends to stay at her current location (she doesn’t expect her old spot to be available next summer anyway), but the city’s vending cart idea could prove a good one, she said. The public seemed delighted to find her coffee stand tucked along the street last summer.

“The reception was phenomenal. Everybody loved it,” Smith said. “People said it’s soulful – it feels European.”

Her indoor space, however, has an advantage. “I don’t have to worry about bears now,” she said.

The opportunity for an outdoor cart next summer, though, holds some appeal.

“I would stay here and entertain the idea of getting something else going,” she said. “It’s fun.”

janet@aspentimes.com


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