‘Highly unlikely’ Little Annie’s will stay open in Aspen | AspenTimes.com

‘Highly unlikely’ Little Annie’s will stay open in Aspen

Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times
Little Annie's will shut its doors for good April 17, if nothing in the next few days happens to save it.
Jeremy Wallace / The Aspen Times |

Little Annie’s Eating House owner Rohn Fleming knows locals roll their eyes when they hear his popular restaurant and bar is closing.

But this time, it looks like it’s going to happen, he said.

“If something happens in the next few days (to save it), I’d be open to it,” Fleming said Tuesday. “But it’s pretty highly unlikely it could happen.”

Fleming said he’s been working with the building’s owners, father and son Andy and Nikos Hecht, for the past few weeks to try to work out a solution but couldn’t find one. The Hechts couldn’t guarantee a full-year lease until the end of next ski season, and because the business makes most of its money in the winter, it wasn’t financially feasible to stay open, Fleming said.

So, Little Annie’s last day will be April 17, the day Aspen Mountain closes and the official end of the ski season, he said.

“Andy and Nikos have been very good to me,” Fleming said. “They helped me get this place open.”

But “the issue is when it’s going to change,” he said. “They’re ready to move forward.”

A phone message left Tuesday for Andy Hecht was not returned.

The restaurant, which opened in 1972 and has been a longtime locals’ favorite, has had its share of closing scares during the past few years.

The Aspen City Council worked to save the business in 2012, when it waived affordable-housing guidelines and allowed the Hechts and their Aspen Core Ventures company to construct a 6,000-square-foot rooftop penthouse in a building next door. In exchange for the deal, the city required that the Little Annie’s space remain a restaurant space with lower-priced options.

The Colorado Department of Revenue shut it down in October 2013 after then-owner Ed Dingilian failed to pay a few months’ worth of sales taxes to the state and city. The Hechts then stepped in and bought the restaurant’s assets at an auction two weeks later for $40,000, and turned it over to Fleming to run, he said.

It also closed in late 2014 for a construction-related issue.

Fernando Aranda of Argentina was sitting at the Little Annie’s bar Tuesday and said he’d been coming to the landmark locals haunt since 1984.

“People treat us like family here,” Aranda said.

Aranda even said he tried to arrange some financing for Little Annie’s a couple years ago, but found the issues surrounding it to be too complicated.

Now, with the closing at hand, Aranda said he hopes the spirit of Little Annie’s — where people from all walks of life gather — remains even if his favorite Aspen apres-ski spot is gone.

“I think it’s possible,” Aranda said.

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