Austin-based Clark’s Oyster Bar going into Little Annie’s building

The old local's hangout spot Little Annie’s has a new building owner out of Austin and is planning on opening an oyster bar. They’ll open Clark’s Oyster Bar in June and employ up to 70 people.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

Aspen will add an oyster bar from Texas to its menu of restaurants as the co-founder of the group involved in the Little Annie’s purchase said Tuesday they are opening their second Clark’s Oyster Bar.

Larry McGuire, an Austin native who is considered by some as a rising star in the hospitality business, is bringing the concept from Clark’s Oyster Bar in Austin into the longtime Aspen space, which started the remodel last week.

And while the name will change, McGuire said Tuesday the group is about honoring “the spirit, flow and history of Little Annie’s.”

“We love the bar, so we’re taking it out and refinishing it and putting it back in the same spot,” McGuire said during a phone interview. “We’re bringing the wood beams in the ceiling back to life. The interior will be similar to our Austin location, but it will have that cabin feel.”

And tapping on that locals’ vibe and being a part of the community, McGuire said Clark’s will have a menu that is appealing to locals and visitors, including “a shot and a beer and some old favorites from Little Annie’s.”

By purchasing the decades-old establishment, McGuire said they won’t have to go by the deed restrictions imposed should they have been renters, and that will translate to the menu.

“We’re lucky because we were able to buy the building, so we won’t have sky-high rent,” McGuire said. “Our Clark’s menu in Austin already fits that (affordable) bill. We have a tuna sandwich and clam chowder, then we have some higher-priced seafood. But the bestselling thing at the current Clark’s no doubt is the hamburger.”

They plan to open in June and will have 60 to 70 employees, he said. With the offseason in Texas during the summer, some of his staff can come up here to beat the heat and work the new space.

McGuire and friend Tom Moorman started the McGuire Moorman Hospitality group in 2009 and currently run seven restaurants in Austin, but this will be their first venture outside Texas. They also run three retail clothing stores in the state’s capital.

Aspen Clark’s Real Estate LLC bought the Little Annie’s property for $2 million from the Hecht family’s Aspen Core Ventures LLC, according to the Pitkin County Assessor’s Office. The sale was recorded on Friday. The Aspen Daily News first reported last week that the Austin hospitality company was involved in the redesign of the building.

McGuire, 35, started as a teenager in food service and he’s been credited with helping reignite the restaurant scene in Austin. Their seven establishments range from barbecue to seafood to formal.

In 2013, The New York Times wrote that the then-five restaurants he had opened in Austin “were inspired by their respective neighborhoods and have spurred their growth. Each has a distinct concept, cuisine and atmosphere, but they all share a laid-back sophistication.”

He said Tuesday the group is well-versed in remodeling local spots and keeping that community feel.

“In Austin, we’ve taken over some beloved restaurants before,” said McGuire, who has been working on the Aspen location for the past year. “Austin and Aspen have got locally owned fierceness to them. Chains are not really welcome here, either.”

And the Texan, who has not spent much time here previously, has developed a deeper connection to Aspen in the past year.

His longtime girlfriend, Tyler Haney, opened the Outdoor Voices retail popup in July just a block east of the Little Annie’s building on Hyman Avenue. She recently extended that lease through September 2018. Haney has similar stores in Austin, Los Angeles and two in New York, where the couple met.

McGuire said he started coming to Colorado five years ago when the couple started dating because Haney is from Boulder. From there, they found their way to Aspen.

Outdoor Voices shares office space with McGuire’s company in the Clark’s building in Austin. In a February 2016 article in the Wall Street Journal, the couple was labeled “two of Austin’s brightest entrepreneurs.”

“Together, (they) have come to represent the Austin of today — young, passionate and sophisticated; a mix of old and new blood; a city that has grown out of the dated image of a sleepy college town from decades ago into a thriving sanctuary for artists and entrepreneurs alike,” the Journal wrote.

McGuire said he has two other restaurant projects that will open before the Aspen eatery. He has been getting to know Aspen the past few months and is renting a house near Buttermilk during the buildout.

Little Annie’s opened in 1972 and started having management issues in 2013 before finally closing in April 2016.

“When we saw the interior and heard the Little Annie’s story, we knew we wanted to do it,” McGuire said. “We’re pumped.”


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