Basalt council eases up on tune time

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

The owners of Heathers restaurant hit the right tune Tuesday night with the Basalt Town Council.

While coming in for a standard liquor-license renewal, restaurant owners Rene and Heather Lujan objected to a condition of the liquor license, which prohibits music on patios after 9 p.m.

Rene Lujan told the council that live music attracts people to the restaurant and his customers enjoy the tunes. Everyone scratches his or her head when the plug gets pulled at 9 p.m. The music is primarily on weekends. The patio faces Midland Avenue, Basalt’s main street, rather than a residential neighborhood.

If Basalt truly wants to breathe life into the downtown core, it has to ease its regulations a bit, Lujan said.

“I’ve been in Basalt 35 years. I know Basalt,” he said. “I just think it’s a mistake to shut the music down at 9 p.m.”

Downtown vitality has been a hot topic in Basalt since the recession hit. Even with the slow recovery, the state of downtown continues to be scrutinized now that Willits Town Center has become an economic powerhouse with the opening of Whole Foods Market. Downtown merchants and restaurateurs are seeking ways to draw people to the core.

The Lujans opened their restaurants in July 2012. They said other downtown business operators and even a handful of downtown residents have complimented the music performed on their patio. They typically get acoustic and low-key as opposed to blaring rock ’n’ roll.

Heather Lujan told the council that midvalley residents are hungry for entertainment.

“Our town needs that,” she said.

They didn’t get any argument from the council. Councilman Mark Kittle said allowing music until 10 p.m. isn’t a “big impact.” Councilmen Glenn Rappaport and Herschel Ross and Mayor Jacque Whitsitt were quick to concur. The council voted 4-0 to relax the restriction. (Three members were absent.)

Town Manager Mike Scanlon noted that other establishments likely would seek a relaxation of the condition for their music. What’s good for Heathers probably has to be good for others, he noted. The council decided to consider requests on a case-by-case basis.