Butch’s Lobster Shack hopes to return to Basalt
For a while it looked like Butch was back in Basalt. Now it’s not so certain.
Butch Darden hoped to bring Butch’s Lobster Shack back to Merino Park, west of Town Hall and the Art Base this summer. The immensely popular seasonal restaurant was absent from Basalt last summer because of issues with the lease and need to pay for a sewer hookup.
Darden said he talked to town officials about returning to Merino Park this summer. He was willing to make the $7,000 investment for the sewer tap as long as he received a long-term lease. He was anticipating approval of the lease in December, but it got shelved.
Town Manager Mike Scanlon said an unanticipated issue arose after he talked to Darden. The Colorado Department of Transportation provided Basalt with the title to property that includes Lions Park, where Town Hall is located, and Merino Park some years ago. The caveat to the title is the property must be used for community uses.
Town Hall and the nonprofit Art Base qualify, as does the Basalt Chamber of Commerce, which is located in the red caboose on the property. Merino Park was formerly used as a recycling center. Scanlon said he is concerned that use of part of the property by a for-profit use could trigger a demand by CDOT for Basalt to pay for the property. Instead, Scanlon hopes to work with the agency to buy the property for a price based on historic public use, then use the property for construction of affordable housing.
Merino Park seems to be a perfect site for affordable housing, he said, and there wouldn’t be a question of whether affordable housing was a community use if the town owned it.
“The town has the ability to use its property any way it wants,” he said. Scanlon hopes the town can acquire the land this summer and start work on an affordable-housing plan.
Meanwhile, Scanlon is pondering another possible landing zone for Butch’s Lobster Shack. He said he’s considering asking the council if they would consider providing space to Butch on the north side of the pedestrian bridge over the Roaring Fork River by 7-Eleven. The town owns the roadway between the bridge and Two Rivers Road. Utility hookups don’t appear to be a major issue at the site, he said.
A community project a couple of summers ago transformed the bridge into a gathering spot, but it is underutilized and often strewn with garbage. Butch’s presence could transform the space into a more vital part of the town.
Darden said he needs an answer from Basalt by mid-May so he can be in place to open by mid-June. He said he is about ready to “give up” on Basalt.
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