Economy puts pinch on Butch’s lobster bars | AspenTimes.com

Economy puts pinch on Butch’s lobster bars

SNOWMASS VILLAGE – A popular restaurant that expanded from Snowmass Village to Basalt just one year ago is now in a position where it has to close at both locations because of the ongoing economic malaise.

Butch Darden said he closed Butch’s Lobster Bar in Snowmass Village last Saturday and will close the restaurant of the same name in Basalt on Sunday.

“I just ran out of money,” Darden said Friday.

The Snowmass Village restaurant opened in winter 1992. After contemplating an expansion downvalley for a couple of years, an opportunity arose in Basalt in July 2009. Darden opened his second restaurant in a space vacated by El Horizonte on Midland Avenue, the town’s main street.

Darden under-estimated the effect the recession would have on his restaurants. Business at the Snowmass Village restaurant was “probably 60 percent of what it once was,” he said.

Business never took off in Basalt. A lobster shack that he ran on Fridays and Saturdays in previous summers in Basalt convinced him a restaurant could attract enough traffic there. However, Darden said he was expecting to do 100 or so dinners on July nights this summer but he was doing “30, maybe 40.”

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He estimated that 30 people work for him between the two restaurants. One cook started out as a dishwasher 18 years ago and worked his way up.

“That put a lot of people out of work that had been with me for a long time, particularly in Snowmass,” Darden said. “I couldn’t do anything about it. I just couldn’t pay the bills.”

He said he is concerned that the tough economic times will linger for several more years. He said he will try to continue operating the lobster shack in Basalt, but was uncertain how that will fare. He has no plans to try another establishment.

“I think I might be done with restaurants,” Darden said.

scondon@aspentimes.com