Aspen City Council: No enclosed structures in public right of way this summer

Open-air dining, safety cited as reasons to remove walls and roofs from some structures used this winter

A waitress carries a plate from the French Alpine Bistro to their outdoor dining structure in Aspen on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Aspen City Council agreed Tuesday to disallow enclosed structures in the right-of-way this summer.

It was a clarifying change to the direction council gave staff last week about how to proceed in accommodating local restaurants while still adhering to local COVID-19 public health orders and providing open-air options for diners.

Council agreed to continue allowing businesses to use trellises, tents and other structures as long as they have open sides and no roof.

That means restaurants like the French Alpine Bistro creperie and Jing will need to alter their outdoor structures so that they do not have roofs and walls.

Mayor Torre said he has had complaints from residents about the encroachment and footprint of the creperie’s chalet building that takes up parking spaces at the corner of Hopkins Avenue and Mill Street.

“I’ve had a lot of citizen comments about trying to navigate through those streets and how skinny that is there now,” Torre said. “I’m wondering if there is the ability to pull that back onto the sidewalk a little bit more utilizing the right of way that is between the sidewalk walking space and the actual curb.”

Other council members said they support open-air structures that provide safe environments to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“I don’t support anything that doesn’t meet state guidelines on COVID-19 compliance,” Councilman Ward Hauenstein said.

Of the 49 parking spaces taken last summer as part of the city’s COVID response and recovery, 27 of them were used by restaurants and 19 by retailers.

This summer will be the third iteration of the city’s COVID outdoor activation response to the business community since the pandemic bore down on the resort town last March.