Curtains for Takah Sushi in Aspen
The Aspen Times
Takah Sushi owner Casey Coffman said Thursday that the 34-year-old restaurant will shutter in April, making it the third Aspen eatery planning to close this spring.
Finbarr’s Irish Pub is scheduled to close April 2 following the recent sale of its space, and today marks the last day for Johnny McGuire’s, which closes two years after the building’s sale to developer Mark Hunt, who plans to replace the space with a lodge.
Takah was for sale in 2014 before Coffman decided to remain open another year under the management of her daughter, Sasha Sells. Coffman said a number of factors played into the restaurant’s decision to call it quits: an expiring lease, increased lease rates and the fact that Takah is not Sells’ passion. Coffman said the previous owner wanted to up the rent, but the new owner, a group led by Beverly Hills businessman Benjamin Nazarian, wants significantly more.
“I don’t know who can make it at the rent that the new landlord thinks is market value,” Coffman said. “I can’t make it at that rent and make my living.”
She is still willing to sell the brand, and some have expressed mild interest, but maintaining the business would be highly contingent on a potential deal with the landlord.
“Unless some white knight rides along and grabs it from me, it’s going to (close),” Coffman said.
Coffman and her ex-husband George Sells opened Takah in 1981, and the business kept her in debt for seven years. At first, Coffman was just trying to pay her mortgage, but Aspen “was not ready for raw fish.” That would change with visitors from Los Angeles and New York, who were hip to the concept. Soon, big-name diners such as Yoko Ono, Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman and Rupert Murdoch were stopping in, Coffman told the Times in 2008.
Nearly 35 years later, after earning a good living and putting two children through college, Coffman said she understands some people are sad to see Takah close. Others, such as her competitors at Kenichi and Matsuhisa, are not so sad, she said.
Coffman said the restaurant’s closing is just one reminder of a town-wide trend, where new property owners are buying up Aspen real estate and lease rates are skyrocketing. While she ran her restaurant to make a living, some business owners in town aren’t concerned with profit and loss, she said.
“Aspen is so attractive for people to be here. It’s so beautiful,” Coffman said. “And for people who really have a lot of money, it’s even more attractive. It’s pocket change for a lot of these people.”
Takah is tentatively scheduled to close April 18.
Standing outside his sandwich shop Thursday, Terrence McGuire said there’s no reason rent should be so high in Aspen.
“There’s an elephant in the room here, and nobody’s talking about it,” he said, adding that the city should provide affordable commercial space along with its affordable housing. “Keep some local businesses here.”
The only trend he sees are local shop owners bailing. He said he needs to do about $1,000 a day in sales to survive in Aspen. Lately, there’s been weeks where Johnny’s sales are less than that for five of the seven days. He said he’s been on the fence about closing the business for a few years and that Hunt’s plans only made his decision easier.
Resident Mike Kashinski was eating outside Johnny’s on Thursday with two friends. A good friend of Coffman and Sells, Kashinski said he’s been eating at Takah and Johnny’s since the late 1980s, when he moved here. He said the loss of local business owners hurts. Even the end of the “new guy on the block,” Finbarr’s, is unfortunate, he said.
“Just getting one last sandwich,” Kashinski said.
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