Aspen’s Hunter Bar prepares to call it quits
August 22, 2012
ASPEN – Running Hunter Bar in Aspen got to be too much for owner Gonzo Mirich.
The former Buttermilk ski instructor, who opened the nightspot on Halloween weekend 2009, said Tuesday that he no longer can put in the time required to keep it going. The last day of business is tentatively set for Aug. 30, Mirich said.
“I’m bummed I couldn’t make it work, but it was a great experience,” he said.
A recent Facebook entry authored by Mirich invites patrons over to the bar for its remaining nine days and touts daily drink specials and various events, such as scheduled evenings with DJs, birthday parties and live music.
“So many good memories, thousands of new great friends, tons of fun moments, but nothing lasts forever,” the invitation reads. “For Hunter Bar the end is around the corner; we are closing our doors for good at the end of the month.”
On closing night, Aug. 30, various items in the bar will be auctioned off or given away to patrons as souvenirs, Mirich said.
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The native of Argentina said he had a five-year lease with an option on another five years. The property owner is letting him out of the lease early, he said.
The owner said he was unable to find the right manager for the bar, which forced him to spend more time there than he originally envisioned. He said his business partners have left town. The winter and summer tourism seasons were healthy, but the offseasons were difficult to overcome, Mirich said.
He said he plans to remain in Aspen and that he might return to his old job as a ski instructor. He formerly worked at Buttermilk and Snowmass.
It’s not clear what will become of the 3,600-square-foot property on the lower level of the Bidwell Building, on the corner of the East Cooper Avenue pedestrian mall and South Galena Street.
Commercial real estate broker Karen Setterfield said an offer has been presented to the property owner, Bert Bidwell Investments Corp., for a new restaurant. She said she was not authorized to identify the bidder or provide any other details.
“I submitted a proposal to the landlord this morning for someone who’s interested in taking it over Sept. 1,” Setterfield said Tuesday. “I call it a restaurant, but it would have a bar in it. I think it would be a fun and casual place that everybody would like.”
Hunter Bar was paying more than $10,000 monthly for rent, taxes, insurance, utilities and maintenance, she said.
“Our landlord was super nice and willing to help us with everything,” Mirich said. “The next tenant needs to make bigger sales so that $10,000 a month is not so scary for them.”
Setterfield said that the space is in a prime location in downtown Aspen. She said she doubts that the lower-level aspect – the front doors are not visible from the street, and patrons must descend stairs to reach the property – hurts the space from a business perspective.
“It’s the best corner in town, and it does have outdoor dining, both in the underground patio and up on the mall,” she said. “Some of the best restaurants in town are underground, and this one, more than most, has windows and exposure to the outdoors. I don’t think that’s an issue.”
Added Mirich, “It’s not impossible to make something happen here.”
Many tenants have occupied the space over the past few decades, including Pinocchio’s pizzeria, Gracie’s consignment shop, the restaurant/nightclub known as nxt, the nightclubs Hannibal Brown’s and the Howling Wolf and the Flying Dog Brew Pub. Local rug purveyor Noori’s Collection also has used the space and was the last tenant before Hunter Bar opened.
The Bidwell Building itself is under contract to a potential buyer whom Setterfield would not name. The deal is scheduled to close in December.