Aspen Kitchen files for bankruptcy protection | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Kitchen files for bankruptcy protection

The owners of the Aspen Kitchen filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Friday in Denver. The restaurant, along with the Aspen Rec Room, will remain open while the company reorganizes its debts.
C2 Photography/courtesy photo |

Area businesses owed money by Rocky Aspen include:

• EBC Support, Aspen — $14,760

• Empire Drywall, Basalt — $15,000

• Lassiter Electric, Basalt — $113,170

• Marquez Maintenance, Aspen — $20,187.50

• Motor City Iron, Glenwood Springs — $16,496

• Old World Wine Co., Eagle — $14,172.81

• Specialized Protective Services, Aspen — $16,905

• Stone Concepts, Eagle — $15,000

• Wagstaff Worldwide — $14,495

• Z Group Architects, Aspen — $33,320

The company that owns Aspen Kitchen and the Rec Room Aspen nightclub, both of which opened to much fanfare in December, filed for bankruptcy protection late Friday.

The high-end restaurant and trendy bar will remain open as its ownership reorganizes its debts, the company said in a statement.

“Rocky Aspen LLC, the entity that owns and operates Aspen Kitchen and Rec Room Aspen, will financially restructure its business and has filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S Bankruptcy Code. The properties will remain open and it will be business as usual while Rocky Aspen LLC implements a financial plan that will ensure stability into the future,” said the statement, issued through the public relations firm Wagstaff Worldwide.

Los Angeles-based Wagstaff, which has an office in Aspen, is among the creditors listed on Rocky Aspen’s bankruptcy petition. It is owed $14,495, according to the voluntary bankruptcy, which was filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of Denver.

Area businesses owed money by Rocky Aspen include:

• EBC Support, Aspen — $14,760

• Empire Drywall, Basalt — $15,000

• Lassiter Electric, Basalt — $113,170

• Marquez Maintenance, Aspen — $20,187.50

• Motor City Iron, Glenwood Springs — $16,496

• Old World Wine Co., Eagle — $14,172.81

• Specialized Protective Services, Aspen — $16,905

• Stone Concepts, Eagle — $15,000

• Z Group Architects, Aspen — $33,320

The restaurant has 77 employees, none of whom will be affected by the bankruptcy, said Gary Heller, CFO of New York-based The Watershed Group, which owns Rocky LLC and the Aspen Kitchen.

“There will be no layoffs whatsoever,” he said. “Employees’ compensation is unaffected.”

The bankruptcy petition says the Aspen Kitchen has between $1 million and $10 million in debts. Heller would not give a precise amount of what the company owes but said he hopes the bankruptcy is resolved by the end of this year.

Disputes with the lender on the construction project of the restaurant property, which Rocky Aspen doesn’t own, led to the bankruptcy, Heller said. He added that the restaurant is current on its rent payments to landlord Mark Hunt, who isn’t listed as a creditor in the bankruptcy filing.

Hunt previously had sued the restaurant before it had opened for not paying its monthly rent of $44,583 for the 5,535-square-foot dining space and $11,667 for the 4,012-square-foot lounge spot. That suit, filed in Pitkin County District Court in December 2014, settled in August.

Celebrity Chef David Burke once had been a key part in the restaurant — it was initially called the David Burke Kitchen — which originally was scheduled to open in May 2014. But disputes with contractors as well as the eviction suit by Hunt, who redeveloped the property at 204 S. Galena St. where the Aspen Kitchen now resides on the top floor, partly led to Burke’s resignation from the David Burke Group in May 2014.

Burke, in an interview with The Aspen Times earlier this year, said the restaurant continued to use his name in marketing materials. And on Feb. 17, he issued another statement emphasizing his detachment from the Aspen eatery.

“Chef David Burke resigned from The Watershed Group (David Burke Group) in May 2014,” the statement said. “In September 2015, Chef Burke joined ESquared Hospitality as a culinary partner. As a result, Chef Burke has no business or culinary involvement with the recently opened Aspen Kitchen. The claim regarding Chef Burke’s involvement in the restaurant has been misrepresented by The Watershed Group.”

Heller said Burke has no ties to the bankruptcy, also noting that the restaurant is meeting expectations and its performance had no bearing on the decision to file Chapter 11.

“It’s important to know we’re standing behind the restaurant,” he said, adding the plan is to “keep operating in Aspen for a long time.”

The restaurant will stay current on its bills to vendors, but the old bills likely won’t be paid in full.

“Vendors will get paid on everything moving forward,” he said. “As for our prior liabilities, they are paid according to the Chapter 11 process.”

Peter Carlson, project manager for Stone Concepts, one of the creditors, spoke to the Times earlier this month to say his company was growing frustrated in trying to collect what it’s owed. The firm did tile and granite work on the restaurant.

“We typically would not do something like (talking to the media about a debt), but my ownership has been fed up,” he said.

David Miller of the Denver law firm Berenbaum Weinshienk PC is representing Rocky Aspen in the bankruptcy.

rcarroll@aspentimes.com


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