Elevation space in Aspen to have new eatery this spring
ASPEN – Come April 1, Elevation no longer will occupy the underground space it’s had for the past 12 years on East Hopkins Avenue’s restaurant row.Co-owner Tommy Tollesson said Thursday that his lease expires on March 31. He and his partner Gunner Sachs tried to negotiate a new lease with building owner Bill Seguin, but the two parties could not agree on the terms.”Our lease is expiring, and the landlord asked us to renew it,” Tollesson said. “We went back and gave an offer that we thought made sense, and we didn’t see eye to eye. They found someone else to take it. It happened a little quicker than I expected.”A new seafood restaurant in a South Florida-casual style, the Square Grouper, will begin moving into the 2,700-square-foot space in April and hopes to be up and running before the summer tourist season.”We’re shooting for Cinco de Mayo,” said co-owner Mike Goldman, a bartender at Zane’s Tavern in Aspen. “We’re going to be making some fun changes. We’ll have a trial run, and by Food & Wine, we’ll be ready to rock.”Goldman is a veteran of the Aspen service industry, having worked at Belly Up, Kenichi and Bad Billy’s, among other places. His partner in the venture is Jesse Wey. They’ve signed a five-year lease with an option for another five years.Plans call for an outdoor mini bar next to the patio dining area. Goldman describes the concept as a cross between a fish shack and a dive bar, with a Cajun-cuisine influence and affordable prices. “We’re gonna do fish, crabs, gator tails, hush puppies, all kinds of good stuff,” he said.He explained that “The Square Grouper” is an old fisherman’s term, a reference to drug contraband in square boxes found floating in the ocean.”It’s a bit of a joke, because everyone who knows me knows I’m kind of a square,” he said.Meanwhile, he and Wey will start a catering operation under The Square Grouper name this winter. Elevation will search for a new home. Tollesson said he’d like to have something lined up by next summer, but if it takes a little longer to find the right spot, that’s OK too. The restaurant will continue to operate as normal through March, he said.”I feel confident that there’s a future for Elevation,” Tollesson said. “When we’re about to open elsewhere, we’ll announce it with a bang.”He said he’s been happy with the East Hopkins space during winters, but the summers are a different story. The outdoor dining area isn’t big enough for the restaurant’s needs, Tollesson said.”Competition is getting tougher,” he said. “I like our space in the winter; it’s got a cozy feel. The summers are hard on us. The patio is too small and getting customers to walk down the stairs has been very challenging.”He said he would prefer a location that either has more outdoor seating or better street-level presence.”A place like The Wild Fig or Pacifica – they’re not going anywhere – but once the patio is full you can just go into the restaurant,” Tollesson said. “We’ve looked at a couple of different options, but it’s a matter of finding the right space at the right time for the right price.”We’re not in a huge rush,” he continued. “Things could look a lot different a year from now. If we’re not somewhere until next winter it wouldn’t be the end of the world. It’s just a few months’ break.”In the transaction involving The Square Grouper, commercial property broker Karen Setterfield represented the building owner while broker Raymi Goodman represented Goldman and Wey.email@example.com
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