Hickory House hurting after bear pigs out
The irresistible hickory-smoked meats at Aspen’s Hickory House may prove its undoing.Unceasing bear trouble at the Main Street eatery that, ironically, features a carved bruin on its roof, culminated Tuesday night with the near-destruction of the restaurant’s outdoor smoker by a hungry bruin. Unless owner Paul Dioguardi can repair it quickly, the Hickory House will be forced to shut its doors, at least for the time being.”If I can’t get it fixed, I can’t cook what we’re famous for,” he said.Aspen and Pitkin County have endured the worst bear season in memory this year, with hungry bears breaking into homes, vehicles and garbage containers.Colorado Division of Wildlife officers trapped two bears outside the Hickory House in early September, but haven’t offered much in the way of help since then, according to a frustrated Dioguardi. He has tried a pepper spray trap, ammonia and a sheet of plywood with decking screws protruding upward to keep bears away from the fragrant temptations wafting out of the restaurant’s outdoor smoker, all to no avail. An electric fence – another DOW suggestion – proved unworkable.”They’ve destroyed my delivery truck because it smells so good,” Dioguardi said. “It’s ridiculous that nothing’s being done about it. It’s going to put me out of business.”State wildlife officer Kevin Wright met with Dioguardi yesterday and set another bear trap outside the restaurant.The agency has tried to work with the Hickory House, Wright said. The restaurant was ticketed by the city for an unlocked trash bin once this summer. In addition, grease left outside has been an issue.”How am I supposed to keep a bear away when there’s also this grease outside?” Wright said.Dioguardi typically smokes some 200 pounds of pork and beef overnight in the smoker out back, but lately a large bear has been raiding the meat. The past four nights Dioguardi has tried to smoke meat, a bear has eaten 90 percent of it. That’s $500 to $600 worth of meat, he said.The nighttime raids have forced Dioguardi to cook during the day. He’s in at 5 a.m. to load up the smoker and fire up the hickory wood, and there at midnight to remove the cooked meat.”I just can’t do it anymore,” he said yesterday.The restaurant has perhaps a day or two worth of smoked meat on hand. If the smoker can’t be repaired, the Hickory House will have to close, Dioguardi said. Only the breakfast menu would be essentially unaffected and it’s not worth opening solely for breakfast, he said.Replacing the smoker will cost $30,000. If Dioguardi can get the parts, repairing it will cost about half that sum, he estimated.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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