Downtown Aspen hungry for food options as buildings remain shuttered this winter
Several restaurant spaces will remain empty in downtown Aspen while new operations enter the scene; retail market remains tight
As winter season kicks off, the downtown commercial landscape has experienced some moves in the retail world with new arrivals and the changing of locations, yet several restaurant spaces will remain dark until next year.
Almost a dozen spaces that used to be restaurants in downtown Aspen will remain shuttered this winter season, including a handful that have been closed for multiple years.
The longest that have remained closed are Main Street Bakery, which ceased operations in 2016 and is owned by prominent landlord Mark Hunt, as well as the former Over Easy and Aspen Brewing Co. space on Hopkins Avenue, which the Hillstone Restaurant Group purchased in 2017.
Brian Biel, vice president of the restaurant group, which owns the White House Tavern next door, issued a similar statement last week that the company has made in previous years.
“Hillstone is working with the city of Aspen to pull its building permit and expects to start work on the new project soon,” he said via email.
Hunt told The Aspen Times this past February he hoped to start construction in a couple of months, but that has not happened.
The space next to the empty Hillstone property that was most recently occupied by Tatanka, which closed in 2021, is supposed to open by next summer as a Thai restaurant and a Japanese concept underneath, according to commercial real estate broker Angi Wang with Setterfield & Bright.
The former Aspen Sports Bistro and prior to that, Hops Culture, located on the Hyman Avenue mall, is under contract and will not be open this winter.
The restaurant space in the Golden Horn building on corner of the Mill and Cooper pedestrian malls won’t be open until next winter, according to John Terzian, who represents the Los Angeles-based h. wood Group.
The hospitality group plans to open its third Nice Guy restaurant, which also has locations in Los Angeles and Dubai and pays homage to the era of mafia bars and restaurants and has an old-school Italian menu.
The group took over the space a year and a half ago, after the previous restaurant, Maru, closed in 2019.
The original plan was to be open in 2021 but delays due to the pandemic and permitting have slowed the process, Terzian said.
He envisions it to be a great place for locals and tourists to hang out in a 1950s era Frank Sinatra and Palm Springs type of scene, with a warm living room feel and live music every night.
“We are super excited about it,” Terzian said last week.
The future proprietors of the Red Onion, Craig and Samantha Cordts-Pearce, planned to be open sometime this winter and now it’s likely sometime in 2023.
The space, also owned by Hunt, is part of almost an entire block on the Cooper Avenue mall being redeveloped into an RH storefront and a jazz center operated by Jazz Aspen Snowmass that has been under construction for years.
Having that much empty space on one block is concerning for Aspen Mayor Torre, who said last week that the vacancy rate in the commercial core, whether the places are spoken for or not, is damaging to the town for many reasons.
“When we have space that is not being utilized in our downtown core, that means that goods and services are not getting to both residents and visitors, and it’s all based on who we are as a town and who are we servicing and how’s it coming back to us,” he said. “On top of that, there is tax implications with all these vacant spaces.”
Torre earlier this fall got support from his fellow council members to have staff investigate the possibility of a commercial vacancy tax.
Hunt’s other properties that used to house restaurants Aspen Pie and Nakazawa on the Mill Street mall are closed, as is the longtime Mexican restaurant Su Casa around the corner at 315 E. Hyman Ave.
The Cordts-Pearces, who also own the Wild Fig, will take over the former Nakazawa space and will also manage the Popcorn Wagon.
The spaces on the corner of Galena Street and Durant Avenue that housed Victoria’s Espresso and The Ski Shop will remain closed while Michael Goldberg, owner of the adjacent Belly Up, plans a new concept there.
Despite the restaurant vacancies, locals and tourists will have some new options this winter.
Parc Aspen, where L’Hostaria Ristorante used to be on Hyman Avenue, is slated to open this month.
Oakberry Acai Bowls and Smoothies recently opened next door at 616 E. Hyman Ave.
The former 7908 space on the Hyman Avenue mall is being remodeled into a new Japanese restaurant, Madame Ushi, along with a night club called Gala and is planned to be open soon.
The outdoor space at 401 E. Hyman Avenue on the pedestrian mall will be called the Whole Empanada, where Red Fox Yogurt operates in the summer.
Sant Ambroeus Café is supposed to be open soon at 520 E. Hyman Ave., with long-term plans to open in the Main Street Bakery spot.
There are several empty retail spaces, but they are all spoken for and are in various stages of renovations, according to Wang.
She said she is constantly being approached by retailers who want a presence in Aspen and there is no slowdown in the very high demand for prime retail locations.
“There are no spaces available,” said Wang, who handles just under about 50% of the leases in the commercial core and has a waiting list of prospective tenants. “It looks we have a lot of vacancies, but we don’t.”
Editor’s note: The following is a list of changes to the retail scene in downtown Aspen.
East Hopkins Avenue:
• 406: This space was leased long-term to AWAY luggage, who did not move in. It is now vacant and available for a new tenant.
• 517: This building has two spaces that are vacant and available for up to one or two years until the building is permitted and ready to be redeveloped.
• 533: The Sugar space is subleased for the winter, or possibly longer, to Corbeaux sportwear.
• 533: Jack Sutton jewelry has extended in the corner space.
South Mill Street:
• 205: On the second level Four One Nine Aspen is a new boutique that has recently replaced Souchi.
South Galena Street:
• 204: Gucci, relocating from across the street, will remodel and occupy three storefronts starting in the fall 2023 after construction.
• 204: Lululemon will move from the middle storefront to the two south storefronts after remodeling. This is an expansion.
• 203: Gucci will remain through summer 2023. A lease is in process to a different tenant starting in the fall of 2023.
East Hyman Avenue:
• 314: The Aspen Times is relocating to 534 E. Hyman Avenue. The space is under contract and will be converted into retail.
• 315: Formerly Su Casa, Eric’s, the Cigar Bar and Aspen Billards, is being remodeled and is leased to Gravity Haus.
• 413: This space is leased to Guest in Residence for the winter, or possibly longer, with a long-term lease to a different retailer in process to start the fall of 2023.
• 419: The space is leased to Golden Goose long-term and is currently under construction but opening soon.
• 420: Fusalp, a high-end outdoor company, will open when the buildout of the space is complete.
• 519: Known as the Benton Building, it’s being built-out for Hermés, which will open eventually.
• 516: This space is leased long-term to Canada Goose and has just opened for business.
• 534: The lower level of the Vectra Bank building will soon be occupied by The Aspen Times on a long-term lease.
• 620: Alicia Adams Alpaca opened last summer and has a location at 555 E. Durant Ave. in the North of Nell building.
•630: Rue Stiic clothing boutique recently opened.
East Cooper Avenue:
• 405: Formerly North Face, Aether just opened on a long-term lease, after relocating from across the street.
• 429: Aspen Hive jewelry shop recently opened on a long-term lease.
• 414: This space leased is long-term to Banana Republic but will not open until end of 2023 after construction.
• 416: This space is leased long-term to Love Shack Fancy but will not open until end of 2023 after construction.
• 609: MAX clothing is undergoing a remodel and will reopen soon.
• 614: Local Coffee House is limiting its menu offerings and Here House will be taking over some of the café space.
East Durant Avenue:
• 520: Located in the Ajax Mountain building, the Malin Gallery is opening soon with a long-term lease above.
• 555: The other location for Alicia Adams Alpaca.
*Source: Setterfield & Bright
Tenants at the city’s oldest deed-restricted housing complex, Centennial Apartments, faced rent hikes as high as 30% in January that sent city, county, and APCHA officials into closed-door meetings with the relatively new landlord, Birge & Held.