Hotel Jerome takes offseason break | AspenTimes.com

Hotel Jerome takes offseason break

John Colson

Ann Fitzgerald, human resources director at the Hotel Jerome, flips hot dogs Monday during a staff party. The historic hotel and its popular bar are closed until Nov. 22; the Jerome will close for six months beginning in April. (Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times)

If you were hoping to belly up to the bar at the historic Hotel Jerome in Aspen, you’re too late, at least for now.The doors to the bar and the hotel were closed Monday and won’t reopen for business until Nov. 22 – just in time for the 2006-2007 ski season.And this is merely a dry run for diehard Jerome patrons; the iconic business will close for six months starting in April.Hotel management declined to make a formal comment on the reasons for the current closure. But employees, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was to make time for small repairs, cleaning and other maintenance chores, as well as to give the staff of roughly 200 people a little time off before the busy ski season.

“I’m going to the Bahamas,” said public relations representative Jennifer Barnhart with a smile, during an employee appreciation party on the west lawn of the hotel Monday afternoon.Other employees said they, too, had travel plans, although some will stay as part of a reduced staff, performing maintenance and security duties during the three-week closure.The hotel, opened in 1889 by one of Aspen’s principal developers, Jerome B. Wheeler, has been in almost continuous operation ever since. Although it has been closed for short periods, the Jerome has served as Aspen’s social hub, even during the so-called “Quiet Years” between the silver bust of 1893 and the advent of skiing in the 1940s.It closed in 1967, having deteriorated to a serious state of disrepair. It was purchased, refurbished and reopened in 1968 by John Gilmore, of Grand Rapids, Mich.

Another extended closure occurred in the mid-1980s, when the hotel underwent a major overhaul and expansion under former partners Jim McManus and Dick Butera. The two reportedly bought the hotel for approximately $6 million and immediately spent millions more on the renovation. McManus, who bought Butera out, owned the hotel until last year.The hotel will close again for about six months next year. The current owners, The Oklahoma Publishing Co., bought the hotel for more than $33 million. The company reportedly plans to sink another $20 million into a variety of upgrades to the rooms, corridors and facilities.Those upgrades will include the addition of a penthouse apartment atop the new wing, a spa over the passageway leading from the historic building to the new wing, and the creation of a new upscale restaurant where there now are two restaurants – Jacob’s Corner and the Century Room.But, according to statements made a year ago by Jerome officials, the J-Bar will be left as it is.John Colson’s e-mail is jcolson@aspentimes.com