Its devastating Downtown Aspen goes black
ASPEN This was not how Aspen planned to ring in the new year. Aspens downtown core was nearly silent for New Years Eve after a series of bomb threats prompted law enforcement officials to close a 16-block perimeter, meaning no restaurants, bars or nightclubs were able to hold their usual celebrations. Its the biggest night of the year by a magnitude of three, said David Elssweig, general manager of Campo de Fiore. Its devastating for every restaurant thats closed.It all started relatively quietly at Aspens banks, until just after 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Outside Wells Fargo bank, Community Safety Supervisor Gretchen Born cordoned off the intersection with yellow tape, and instructed pedestrians to stay on the opposite side of the street. Outside Vectra Bank, the same thing was happening. Across the street from Wells Fargo, 18-year-old Will Bertron and 25-year-old Elizabeth Rogers, both of Houston, stood on the street corner, watching the commotion wondering if someone had robbed a bank or made a bomb threat. Soon, authorities brought in Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses to block access into the Aspen core, and used a reverse 911 call to evacuate businesses throughout town. Storekeepers along Mill Street and Hyman Avenue said they had been doing a brisk business until they were told to close. I mean, its New Years Eve, everyones shopping, said Tineyi Dube of Fendi, which had to turn shoppers away as staff were trying to exit the store. Linda Guterman, at linen store Frette, concurred. We were thrilled, she said of the afternoons business until staff had to begin shooing customers out. Meanwhile, 21-year-old Katie Howlin was upset to learn that she wouldnt be able to get to her hair and nails appointment at the Queen B salon with Rita, whos amazing.Ive been trying to get in with her and if I miss it, Im going to be really upset, she said, half-joking. At the Cantina restaurant, owner Darren Chapple forgave all his customers bills and sent them out the door, after receiving the evacuation call.Some of my employees have actually sketched out about being here. I couldnt hold them against their own will, so I let them check out, and if I have no employees to take care of my customers, Ill have to let them [the customers] go and close the restaurant, he said. At the Crystal Palace Grille, a note on the door said: We will meet here after the bomb threat.Inside, the tables were set, and black-and-white streamers hung from the ceiling. A ladder stood in the middle of the dining room. Elsewhere, the staff of American National Bank evacuated to the Jerome Bar after being told to leave their bank about 3 p.m. By 4:45 p.m., the group was still gathered at a table, waiting to be allowed back close everything up and run transactions, they said. In the meantime, Branch President Aaron Pearlman was buying the refreshments. Shortly thereafter, the Jerome Bar was evacuated as well. They said, basically, theres a bomb threat, and no ones at any risk, but please leave the building, youd be in danger if any bombs started going off, said Denver resident Ken Gold, who had been having a drink at the bar. By early evening, Denny Ives, a 35-year-old Aspen resident and Crystal Palace server, stood outside the restaurant, looking in hopefully. The restaurant had New Years Eve reservations for 186 people, he said, and Ives had expected to make between $200 and $300 in tips. Nearby, the staff at Campo de Fiore said they were expecting more than 200 guests to ring in the new year. The restaurant has been booked for a month, said general manager David Elssweig. The night represents 15 percent of December revenue for the restaurant, he estimated. At 6:15 p.m., the group was sure their first seating wouldnt happen, but they were still hoping to fit in a 9 p.m. seating. They had been decorating since 9 a.m., they said. By 6:30 p.m., authorities began evacuating the entire 16-block radius. New Yorker Monica Martin, leaving Bad Billys restaurant and bar, was surprised by the turn of events. I live in New York, but this is Aspen. Its not supposed to happen here, she said. Harry Aubrey De-Lavenu, 44, of Portugal, said he tried going to three different restaurants in Aspens core. Each time he ordered a drink and sat down, he then was ordered by authorities to leave. The last one I went into, I just ordered a shot of Jack Daniels and drank it, he said. This was after he was asked to evacuate the Hotel Jerome by way of alarms and the announcement of a routine evacuation. It later re-opened. By 10 p.m., Rob Ittner, owner of Rustique Bistro, had let his staff go. He had kept his staff on call for about four hours, after the restaurant was forced to close at 5:30 p.m., he said. Finally, he gave up on what is usually the restaurants biggest revenue night, he said. Still, outside the town core, revelers were not deterred. Establishments such as the J Bar, the Hyatt Grand Aspen and the Ruths Chris Steakhouse were packed. All of a sudden, Aspen cant be elite or populist, said Aspenite Leon Fell, 60. Now theres not a party with a ticket for $500. They all have to mingle together because they dont have an expensive party to go to.
Staff writer John Colson contributed to this firstname.lastname@example.org
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