Aspen’s Red Onion has new proprietors
Local restaurateurs Samantha and Craig Cordts-Pearce, who own five other eateries in town, have a signed a long-term lease for the historic watering hole on the Cooper Avenue mall
Aspen restaurateurs Samantha and Craig Cordts-Pearce are adding a sixth local restaurant to their mini epicurean empire — the celebrated and historic Red Onion.
The Onion, as it’s commonly and affectionately referred to by locals, has been defunct since December 2020 when the operators of the bar and restaurant permanently closed in the midst of COVID-19 restrictions.
Building owner and landlord Mark Hunt has kept it shuttered while major structural and interior improvements are made to the Cooper Avenue mall space.
While Hunt had said earlier this year that he hoped for a Thanksgiving opening, Craig Cordts-Pearce said he’d be lucky if the doors open by the end of year, which is dependent on the supply chain, city permitting and the labor market.
Owners of CP Burger, The Monarch, The Wild Fig, Steakhouse No. 316 and the most recently acquired Woody Creek Tavern, the Cordts-Pearces approached Hunt about taking over the Red Onion.
“We felt like we were the ones to take it over,” Craig said. “We are glad it landed in the hands of a small and successful local restaurant group.”
He said they signed a 25-year lease with Hunt and plan to pay homage to the storied history of the 130-year-old watering hole.
“We almost have a blank canvas,” Craig said, adding he envisions a speakeasy/dive bar concept. “The bar isn’t going anywhere. … I want it to be where five drunks, a chef and a billionaire are sitting there and no one cares. That’s what we need in town.”
They promise high-quality food, whether it’s bar fare or what’s served in the dining room, which will have a little more room than what was there previously.
“We’ll take it over CP-style knowing what it means to town,” Samantha said. “And the food is going to be good.”
Craig said he and his wife took a lot of heat when they assumed control of the Woody Creek Tavern in late 2020, with a lot of early criticism that they were going to ruin the place and hike the prices.
He asked the public to be patient with what’s coming at the Red Onion.
“I’ve already been down the gauntlet,” he said. “It took time for people to trust us. I would like to reassure everyone that we are not going to screw the Onion up.”
Craig said it doesn’t go unnoticed that he and Samantha are responsible for two of the valley’s oldest dive bars with important histories for locals.
“It’s a big responsibility,” he said. “I’m incredibly honored.”
There also will be a stage area for live music, which will fit well with the concept next door and above the Red Onion, which is a performance center and home to Jazz Aspen Snowmass, Craig noted.
Craig said he plans special pricing, like the locals’ favorite of a shot and a beer.
Just like most things in Aspen, don’t expect the Red Onion to have menu prices like they were in the past, as costs have gone up for virtually everything.
“By Aspen terms it won’t be expensive,” Samantha said. “It has to make sense for Aspen … it’s for the same people who go to Mi Chola, Bruno’s and Meat and Cheese.”
The remodel of Limelight Hotel Aspen took about six months to complete, but settling more than $3.4 million in overdue debts related to the project has taken twice the time so far.