Aspen’s Square Grouper closed for good

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times
The Square Grouper closed Monday after 3.5 years in business.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

Aspen Square Grouper has whipped up its last order of gumbo fries, served its final rounds of beers and bid farewell to the loyal patrons who have supported the local spot for the past three and a half years.

The New Orleans-style restaurant and bar closed its doors for good during the wee hours of Tuesday morning, co-owner Mike Goldman confirmed Tuesday.

“The dive bar is not really making it in Aspen anymore. It’s been very tough to keep the more price-pointed bar, places like us,” Goldman said.

“A bar like ours, we rely on volume, not the big spenders. And the volume in Aspen just isn’t the way it used to be.”

But Goldman said he and fellow Square Grouper owners Tom Flanga and Milton Allen remain in good spirits as they close this chapter in their careers.

“We want to make it positive for the three of us. We’re really, really proud of what we’ve done,” Goldman said. “Hopefully the Square Grouper will always be remembered in a positive light. We left our legacy.”

To Goldman, the Grouper’s legacy involved serving as a home to locals.

“It’s where all the industry people went, where all the bartenders, servers, chefs, the managers went,” he said. “So to be accepted as that — as the place that our locals went, the heart of Aspen — that meant the world to me.”

The Square Grouper, located at 304 E. Hopkins Ave., opened its doors to the community mid-May of 2013.

Developer Mark Hunt owns the building, which also houses Aspen Brewing Co. and Over Easy.

“It’s bittersweet, but it’s the right thing and it’s the right time,” Goldman said of the restaurant’s close this week.

From a business standpoint, 2016 “was a very difficult year for us,” Goldman said.

Altogether, “though our numbers were up over the last four years, we’re not seeing any light at the end of the tunnel,” he explained. “I don’t see a future in Aspen with our kind of bar in it, unfortunately.”

A series of break-ins last year, including one that had Goldman in court Tuesday morning, didn’t help, either, the owner pointed out.

“We want to end this the right way and walk away with our heads held high,” he said. “The Grouper has meant everything to us and it’s really been a fun ride for nearly four years.”

On behalf of the Square Grouper, Goldman said he wishes to extend a “tremendous thank-you” to the local community.