Basalt plays a new tune for boosting late night vitality

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Basalt has been debating how to bring vitality to its downtown. Some council members suggest easing up on a requirement that bars and restaurants stop playing outdoor music by 10 p.m.
Aspen Times file photo |


Basalt Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Robin Waters said the organization and its partners are hosting a variety of events this summer to draw people downtown and to Willits Town Center.

Many of the events are old favorites, like the Wednesday night concerts and Motorcycles on Midland. Others are events that organizers hope become regular summer features.

“We’re beginning to create large, recurring anchor events,” Waters said.

Here are some highlights for the summer:

* Lemonade Days Parade, Saturday, June 27. The parade will feature kids on floats and bicycles. They will assemble in front of the Habitat for Humanity ReStore at 10:30 a.m. The parade starts at 11 a.m. and will go down Midland Avenue and head for the elementary school. The theme is Lemonade Days with a Pan and Fork.

* Basalt Summer ArtsBeat, every Wednesday evening from July 8 through Aug. 12. Live music by local and regional bands will be featured along with arts projects supported by the Wyly Arts Center in Lions Park in downtown Basalt. The events will start at 6 p.m., rain or shine. All concerts will be at Lions Park this year and will be BYOB.

* Dancing in the Streets on Saturday, Aug. 1. Midland Avenue, the town’s main drag, will be closed for a street dance with live music and food.

* Motorcycles on Midland. Bikers will be able to show off their sweet rides on Midland Avenue Saturday, Aug. 29.

* Willits Town Center will host the Chile Chili event on Saturday, Sept. 19.

Details on the August and September events will be released as they draw nearer.

If Basalt wants to add some spark and vitality to the town, it shouldn’t convene a meeting every time a restaurant or bar wants to play music past 10 p.m., some council members suggested this week.

Tempranillo Restaurant is hosting a private party Friday and wants to have a DJ spinning music on its porch until midnight. The town’s policy is that outdoor, amplified music must end before 10 p.m., though variances for later events have been granted.

The town staff wasn’t comfortable granting an extension to the Midland Avenue business so it sent Tempranillo’s request to the council for review. The planning staff’s memo to the council said the police department was consulted and concerned it would field complaints about the event.

Tempranillo co-owner Laura Maine quipped that she had been tempted just to go ahead and hold the event, but she wanted to seek the town’s blessing. The speakers will be situated on the patio to ensure the sound carries toward the restaurant, she said. Management also will be on scene to monitor the volume, according to Maine.

“We need to keep from micromanaging party by party.”Basalt Mayor Jacque Whitsitt

Councilman Gary Tennenbaum suggested the community needs to lighten up a bit. Activity downtown is key to spurring vitality in the community, he said. As a resident, he’s always interested in checking out what is going on when he hears music downtown, he noted.

“There is a potential way to bring more vitality,” Tennenbaum said.

He favored granting Tempranillo’s request for an extension for Friday and later holding a broader community discussion on loosening restrictions on downtown businesses. He said he is confident the bar and restaurant owners are responsible people who would minimize disturbances to residents by controlling the volume of music.

Tennenbaum said he wants the community to come to a consensus so the council doesn’t have to make the call every time a business wants to play tunes past 10 p.m.

Mayor Jacque Whitsitt agreed with that approach. “We need to keep from micromanaging party by party,” she said.

The council voted 6-0 to let Tempranillo’s DJ keep the party lively until 11 p.m.

Vitality has been a hot topic since the recession hit. In the eyes of some, the town’s commercial core remains mired in economic doldrums left over from the recession. Three former anchor tenants from downtown have relocated to Willits Town Center in West Basalt.

Some people contend a boutique hotel is needed to restore the downtown’s economic punch. Others say events and occasions should be used to draw people downtown, not bricks and mortar.

The Basalt Chamber of Commerce has teamed with the Basalt Downtown Business Association and other community organizations to try to create events to draw people. (See related fact box.)

Easing up on restrictions on bars and restaurants without turning a deaf ear to residents’ concerns has emerged as another piece of the vitality pie.