Butch’s Lobster Shack can’t work out lease deal in Basalt for summer | AspenTimes.com

Butch’s Lobster Shack can’t work out lease deal in Basalt for summer

The popular lobster shack in Basalt that has attracted large weekend crowds for authentic New England seafood dishes won't be back in business this summer due to failed lease negotiations.
File photo |

A popular lobster shack won’t be back in Basalt this summer after owner Butch Darden and the Basalt Downtown Business Association were unable to agree on lease terms.

Darden received a lease from the Basalt Town Council last summer to rent the former recycling center space along Midland Spur Road, west of Lions Park. Darden said he erected a 600-square-foot tent and 250-square-foot commissary last summer, which were removed for winter. He could seat 40 people and did a booming takeout business.

“I put $30,000 into that place,” he said.

The town turned the handling of the property over to the business association for this summer. Darden said the business association wanted him to take two-thirds of the space he had last year. The association rented the other third, closest to Two Rivers Road, to a fruit and vegetable vendor. Darden declined to downsize.

“I just couldn’t downsize and make things work,” Darden said.

Tracy Bennett, president of the Basalt Downtown Business Association, said the decision was nothing against Butch’s Lobster Shack. “I’m sorry to see him go,” she said.

Downtown merchants formed the association two years ago to host and market activities and build awareness of businesses. Association members measured the former recycling center site and determined three spaces could be rented out for $500 per month each this summer. Darden was offered two spaces for a total of $1,000 per month. Since he declined, a request for proposals will be posted on the websites of the business association and town government, Bennett said.

Darden said he erred by signing only a one-year lease last summer. That turned out to be an issue because the town government handed control of the property to the Basalt Downtown Business Association about one month after it reached terms with Darden. The switch was made after some members of the business association complained that Darden got too sweet of a deal to operate on public land at $500 per month when other restaurants are paying markets rents and other expenses, according to Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon.

The town staff wouldn’t “get into” the negotiations between Darden and the business association, Scanlon said. It is unfortunate that the parties couldn’t work out a deal because Butch’s Lobster Shack combined with a produce stand could be a popular draw, he added.

“I was actually thinking this could be more dynamic,” Scanlon said.

Butch’s Lobster Shack has been a popular draw since 2003. It leased space for more than a decade at the Phillips 66 gas station, but Darden and the new owner of the property couldn’t come to terms. The town rented the former recycling center property to Darden last summer in the ongoing effort to add vitality to downtown. The shack was open seven evenings per week during the summer months.

“I’m certainly vitality,” Darden said. He said he offered something unique that was modeled after stands in Maine. He offered steamers, fry clams and lobster — food that people couldn’t get in other restaurants.

“They’ll be a lot of disappointed people,” Darden said about the lack of a shack this summer. He’s already hearing from some of them as word of mouth spreads about his absence.

“For me, it’s not the end of the world,” Darden said. He will continue to cater lobster bakes, but it doesn’t appear there will be a stand available to the public.

Bennett said the business association wants to use the space to provide even more vitality this summer. The goal, she said, it to find as many as three vendors for the site.


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