City of Aspen extends offer to fill former Taster’s Pizza space |

City of Aspen extends offer to fill former Taster’s Pizza space

The city of Aspen is seeking a new restaurant operator in the old Taster's Pizza space by Rio Grande Park.
Carolyn Sackariason/The Aspen Times

An affordable restaurant and bar for locals is on the horizon in Aspen.

The city extended a notice of intent to award to Brendan Berl and his concept Yogi’s to fill the vacant space at Rio Grande Place, formerly occupied by Taster’s Pizza. 

“We’re excited. We think it is a good concept and a good menu, and it’s going to be a good fit for the space,” said the city’s capital asset director, Rob Schober. 

Lease terms, insurance, and other particulars will be negotiated in early January. The offer is not definite until negotiations are complete with city council’s final approval, but both parties are enthusiastic about moving forward.

City officials and Berl aim to have the space operational by summer 2023. He hopes to hard open before peak season, which is usually the Fourth of July.

Yogi’s will offer lunch, dinner, and a full bar, plus a free arcade. Their hours will be 11 a.m. to late night, depending on the season. After 10 p.m., the restaurant will be 21+, Berl said. 

The menu is not yet finalized, but he is aiming for a price point averaging $14 a plate. According to proposal documents, alcohol will be priced at $8 wines, $6 well cocktails, and $5 beers. 

A mock-up menu includes items like nachos, fried onion strings, chicken sandwiches, reubens, and homemade ice-cream sandwiches. The kids’ menu will include dinosaur chicken nuggets.

Brendan Berl is an 11-year local and started working in Aspen’s hospitality industry in 2012. He said he started dreaming up the concept for Yogi’s last January but could not find a commercial space. Then, he found out about the city of Aspen’s request for proposals. 

“One of my regulars at my bar came in with the paper, the first article saying that the city was looking for proposals for the Rio Grande space,” Berl said. “So, I immediately started building my concept around that, requested floor plans from the city, and then just went from there.”

The initial floor plan for Yogi’s features a bar area, dining area and arcade area. (Brendan Berl/courtesy photo)

Other restaurateurs favored gourmet concepts, he said, which led to Aspen’s glaring need for an affordable, locals-focused restaurant. 

“That’s why we have half a dozen Italian restaurants and steakhouses. Everyone who comes in here expects to make all of their money in the wintertime and at dinner,” he said. “So, they’re appealing to the older, wealthier crowd. There’s nearly zero interest in people who want to serve in the summertime or lunch to the year-round locals.”

He will serve as the general manager of Yogi’s, with local Scotty Weber as the primary investor. Berl said he will have a small stake in ownership, but the exact quantity has yet to be determined. Tommy Slanga, whom Berl met when they opened the now-closed Square Grouper, will be the chef.

The city first put out a request for proposal in July to fill the 1,615-square-foot space. It has been empty since 2019, when the city renovated the building as part of its municipal offices build-out. The city narrowed their selection from ten proposals to three in November, and Yogi’s beat out the other two proposals.

The city said it will contribute up to $200,000 in hard improvements such as bathrooms, electrical sub panels, and air-handling units. Berl said he plans to take advantage of those funds, in part to convert an empty elevator shaft into an ADA-compliant restroom.

The city’s parameters in the RFP emphasized the need for a space for teenagers to gather in the Aspen core. Berl’s plan for Yogi’s includes the free arcade and $1 soft drinks to provide a welcoming space for young people to gather. He hopes Yogi’s will help mitigate mental-health struggles that Aspen’s youth face.

He also said he is in conversation with Michaela Idhammar-Ketpura, executive director at the Aspen Youth Center, about employing high-school-aged locals at Yogi’s. It is a good way to cement the restaurant’s reputation as for and by locals, Berl said. 

And, it is also a source of already-housed workers in a valley facing a housing crisis.


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