Insurance limited for Aspen restaurants after power outage

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times

When the power kicked back on at the Square Grouper restaurant Monday night, it jolted a piece of equipment so hard that a sewage line snapped.

So co-owner Mike Goldman spent Tuesday morning standing in the filthy mess, trying to figure out a temporary fix. He’s also been trying to figure out how he’s going to recoup an estimated $6,000 in lost revenue, the result of Monday’s nearly 11-hour power outage.

Edwards-based LKP Engineering Inc., which was working with subcontractor Odell Drilling, took responsibility Monday for severing a main electric feeder line on East Hallam Street, which caused outages for businesses and residences throughout Aspen from 11:30 a.m. until after 10 p.m.

“This is the kind of thing where if I don’t get compensated for something, I don’t have the money to cover this at the end of the month,” Goldman said, adding that his insurance doesn’t cover his loss of business unless the outage lasts at least 24 hours.

Goldman has been in talks with his attorney and friend Alan Feldman about the potential for a class-action lawsuit or temporary loan. His restaurant is among dozens of downtown businesses searching for compensation or insurance coverage. Bootsy Bellows owner Andrew Sandler said he is looking at about $30,000 in losses, while Zocalito Latin Bistro’s Mike Beary estimates around $10,000 in losses.

The city of Aspen’s Legal Department is exploring what penalties and fines can be pursued, based on sales tax revenue and other losses.

LKP Engineering owner Luiza Petrovska said the error occurred Monday morning while taking soil samples at 101 E. Hallam St., where the company expected to make a recommendation for foundation support at the residence. She apologized for the mistake and said she’s sympathetic toward Aspen’s small businesses, as LKP Engineering is a three-person firm.

The Pitkin County Assessor’s Office lists the owner of 101 E. Hallam St. as Patricia Gorman. On Wednesday, a woman inside the home, who did not open the door or offer her name, said, “I can’t make any statement.”

Petrovska said LKP Engineering contacted the Utility Notification Center of Colorado on July 24. She said they acted under the assumption that all utilities were located by July 31, four days before the field work was conducted. Petrovska said her crew followed the same procedure it always does for such a job, but it failed to acquire a city of Aspen right-of-way permit.

Petrovska said she is unsure whether her insurance company will cover any loss, and LKP is not yet exploring how businesses can recoup revenue.

“We still have to determine who’s liable for what,” she said. “We’re hoping that everybody is going to be understanding that we’re running a small business. We were trying to take a soil sample, and a very unfortunate thing happened. My deepest apologies to everyone who was affected by this unfortunate incident.”

Zocalito Latin Bistro on the Hyman Avenue pedestrian mall was closed not only Monday night but Tuesday, as well. Zocalito’s kitchen-hood system, which sucks air out of the restaurant, wasn’t functioning because a motor broke down during the outage.

“Your insurance company will cover it, but they never truly give you what you would’ve made. It’s typical insurance, right?” Beary said of his estimated $10,000 loss.

At Bootsy Bellows, which is normally closed Mondays, Sandler had booked a 100-person birthday party, with champagne bottle service. He estimated $20,000 in lost revenue and $10,000 in lost food.

Aspen Utilities Director David Hornbacher said the partial and total outages occurred between Hallam Street and Hyman Avenue, running north to south, and Spring and Garmisch streets, running east to west, encompassing all of Restaurant Row on Hopkins Avenue.

“It’s one thing when the town goes without power,” Sandler said. “It’s another thing when it’s Restaurant Row.”

While power went out at the Square Grouper around 11:30 a.m., it returned at 3 p.m., so owners reopened and phoned local hotels to let them know they were in business. Around 7 p.m., when an 18-person party arrived, the power cut out again, and owners improvised with candles and piano music. But by then, without a working hood, they could no longer make food.

“I can’t stay upbeat about this one,” Goldman said. “This really hurt me — at least right now — bad.”


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