Fatbelly Eats found the times too lean in Basalt
BASALT – Fatbelly Eats is closing this weekend after what the owner of the new restaurant described as a “dismal” winter in Basalt.
Owner Shane Vetter said the restaurant has struggled since opening in October. He was hoping for a surge of business in March, but instead has experienced some of his worst weeks.
Vetter said he sat down with landlords Joseph and Larkin Ciri and decided it was time to cut his losses. He is closing, he said, without owing anybody large amounts of money. He made a significant investment in improvements to the interior of the former Basalt Bistro space on Midland Avenue, so he and the Ciris were able to reach an accord on his departure.
Friday will be the last day of dining at Fatbelly Eats in Basalt. Vetter’s popular hamburger stand in Carbondale, Fatbelly Burgers, will continue to do business as usual.
The tough economic times made it difficult to establish the Basalt restaurant. “People are really broke and really stressed,” Vetter said. Many folks aren’t going out to eat or aren’t going out to eat as often. In addition, he said, diners really pinched pennies in the restaurant – often sharing food and drinking water.
Fatbelly featured burgers from locally-raised, grass-fed beef and other meats and vegetables that were locally grown. Unlike the Carbondale hamburger joint, Fatbelly Eats provided seating and a wait staff. Vetter said he also wanted to create a place where friends could get together for a drink after work. The restaurant and bar offered live music on some nights to try to attract diners but the success was limited.
“There was nobody in town past 7 o’clock at night,” Vetter said.
Fatbelly Eats never had a chance to test its concept during summers, the town’s busiest time. The extensive interior work pushed the opening into fall and now it is closing in early spring.
Basalt is facing a tough time bouncing back from the recession. Monthly sales tax revenues – reflecting sales by everything from grocery stores to restaurant and retail shops – continue to bounce along in what the town manager has labeled “a general malaise.” Vetter said Basalt has trouble generating the type of vibrancy that Carbondale has created. In Carbondale, there are numerous citizen-organized events. Basalt doesn’t have that same organization. It also seems to struggle more with multiple identities, with the town divided between old town, Southside and Willits, he said.
Vetter said he is concerned about the ability of mom-and-pop businesses like his, which don’t have deep pockets, to hold on until the economy improves. That makes it vital for people in the community to do what they can to support local businesses, he said.
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