Dining as usual this winter in Aspen
It will be dining out as usual this winter at Aspen’s restaurants.
The Aspen City Council on Monday elected not to change municipal rules that apply to outdoor dining during the winter. That means restaurants must continue to adhere to restrictions that limit enclosed restaurant seating areas, or outdoor tents, on private property for seven days, or as many as 14 days with a special permit.
The decision applies to Aspen’s 59 dining establishments that have private space that can be used for outdoor dining. Alfresco dining isn’t an issue for them in the summer, but it’s a different story during the cold months of winter.
Ryan Chadwick, owner of the Grey Lady restaurant on the 300 block of East Hopkins Avenue, said an enclosure would cost $25,000, and it’s not worth the investment for just one week. He asked the council to relax the rules and extend the period for as long as two weeks or more, but the majority of the council, except for Adam Frisch, didn’t bite. Frisch suggested trying out a longer period on an experimental basis, but he couldn’t sway his colleagues.
Council members also expressed concerns about the appearances of the enclosures or tents in a predominantly historic area, fearing they would degrade the pedestrian experience.
The council also stuck to its previous position against putting large tents in the public right of ways on each pedestrian mall to accommodate outdoor dining. Under that scenario, the restaurants would lease the space from the city.
However, the council supported allowing restaurants, such as the J-Bar, to have outdoor dining on public right of ways but without enclosures. Over the summer, the J-Bar leased a portion of the city-owned sidewalk for two tables. That will be allowed to continue this winter.
“I’d like to find a way to continue that kind of outdoor use, with just the umbrella,” Councilman Art Daily said. “I”m not very comfortable with the full enclosures.”
The City Council previously entertained the issues during an April discussion in which they indicated they needed more information before making a decision.
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The Youth Art Expo will run Feb. 27 through March 14 at the Aspen Art Museum, showcasing work by young artists from Aspen to Rifle.