Iguana’s Bar and Grill closing down | AspenTimes.com

Iguana’s Bar and Grill closing down

Abigail Eagye

Revelers pack Iguana's deck on April 2, closing day at Highlands Ski Area. (Mark Fox/Aspen Times file)

The popular Aspen Highlands eatery Iguana’s Bar and Grill will close its doors at the end of the month.Owners Stanley and Judith Hoffberger decided it was time to move on, according to their son, Russell.”They are in their 70s, and they’ve gotten to the point where they need to relax,” Russell Hoffberger said.The younger Hoffberger said his parents asked him and his partner, Bryan Nelson, if they wanted to take over the restaurant, but the two chose to continue to focus their efforts on their Aspen venture, Pacifica Seafood Brasserie.

“We’ve got a great blueprint here. We really don’t want to be in the bar business,” Hoffberger said. Iguana’s has “been a great success. It’s just not where Bryan and I want to be.”Hoffberger stressed that his parents’ decision to close Iguana’s is based solely on their personal situation. It has nothing to do with the business environment at Aspen Highlands, he said.”It’s been great for us up there,” he said. “One of the greatest things we did up there was to bring the locals back to Highlands.”Popular with the après-ski crowd, Iguana’s was a standout in a business atmosphere that has been historically sluggish. But base area businesses saw greater success this past ski season, coinciding with record skier numbers at the ski area, said Jeanette Darnauer, whose company handles public relations for the merchants association at Aspen Highlands Village. Skier visits were up more than 15 percent at Highlands last season.

Darnauer said that Iguana’s has “been the main anchor” at Highlands since the village was finished. Despite the restaurant’s imminent closure, both Hoffberger and Darnauer are optimistic a new venue will be in place for the coming ski season. Hoffberger said the restaurant has several interested buyers, and his parents do not want to leave the village “high and dry.”Darnauer said the decision to close at the end of September works well for the area, since the majority of businesses there close during the offseason anyway. That leaves a window to find a replacement before ski season, she said.”I think there will be a restaurant and a bar there for sure,” she said. “We have plenty of time to find an operation before the winter, and it’s really important to us that we don’t lose that edge of the après-ski experience at Iguana’s at Highlands.”

Darnauer’s greater concern was the Hoffbergers’ departure.”I was so surprised to hear the news, because I just love Stanley and Judith,” she said. “Stanley’s a strong businessman. That’s been one of the joys of working with him. He’s got wonderful ideas.”The restaurant will remain open on a limited basis until the end of the month, and Darnauer said it would definitely be open for the Maroon Bells Festival of Color, Sept. 23-24.Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is abby@aspentimes.com