Butch’s Lobster Shack reaches lease but pinched by county rule | AspenTimes.com

Butch’s Lobster Shack reaches lease but pinched by county rule

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Butch Darden, owner of the popular summertime Butch's Lobster Shack in Basalt, is hoping to reopen the shack in new location in Basalt this summer.
Aspen Times Weekly File |

Butch’s Lobster Shack has crossed one hurdle that threatened to prevent its return to downtown Basalt this summer, but now it faces a larger, unforeseen obstacle.

The popular shack’s owner, Butch Darden, worked out a lease with the Basalt Downtown Business Association to rent a small space in the same location as last year. He leased a spot last year in the former recycling center, now known as Merino Park, from the town of Basalt. The association was appointed the clearinghouse for the space this summer.

Darden and the business association were at an impasse because they wanted him to take less space than last year for a greater price. He was offered 2,900 square feet of space for $1,000. He initially declined because he said he needed space for his 600-square-foot tent, a 250-square-foot commissary and seating for 40 people.

Several letters to the editors of Aspen’s newspapers suggested it was absurd that an association promoting downtown was declining to renew a lease of a business that draws people to town and doesn’t directly compete with any restaurant in town.

Representatives of the association said they simply wanted to invite diversity by signing up three vendors for the space.

With a little time, both sides got what they wanted. Darden accepted the 2,900-square-foot space at a reduced rate of $500 per month. The association got diversity. Another 1,400 square feet of space will be leased to Slow Groovin’ BBQ, which will operate Mondays and Tuesdays and other special times during the summer. Slow Groovin’ is a popular barbecue restaurant in Marble.

The town also designated space in the parking area near Merino Park for another vendor the business association wanted to sign for the summer. Early Morning Orchard will set up a vegetable and fruit stand in that space six days per week.

But Town Planner Susan Philp said the return of Butch’s Lobster Shack isn’t guaranteed, despite the best wishes of the town government and Downtown Basalt Business Association.

“The county health department has put the business on notice that they have to be connected to the sewer line,” Philp told the Basalt Town Council on Tuesday night. She said connection to the sewer line at full price would cost $4,900.

Darden wasn’t required to attend the council meeting, and he couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday evening.

Town officials will appear before the Basalt Sanitation District on June 10 on Butch’s behalf to see if the fee can be reduced or waived. At $4,900, it’s economically infeasible for a summer of business, Philp said.

The town staff also will help Darden explore seeking a variance with from the state of Colorado Health Department. The Eagle County Health Department is interpreting that Butch’s Lobster Shack is a fixed rather than mobile structure under state regulations.

Council members said they will do what they can to assist the lobster shack once answers are available from the sanitation district and, if necessary, the state on a variance.