Jerome may close for six months |

Jerome may close for six months

Naomi Havlen

The new owners of the Hotel Jerome are planning a major remodeling of the historic building that may include closing the business for six months next year.But locals can breathe a sigh of relief: The remodel won’t include the J-Bar, a cherished Aspen hangout famous for thick hamburgers and pints of beer.”I think I’d be lynched if we changed the J-Bar,” said Steve Bartolin, who will oversee the Hotel Jerome under its new ownership.The hotel, which dates to 1889, sold earlier this month to Oklahoma Publishing Co. LLC, owner of the upscale Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. “What we’d like to do is an extensive renovation, investing a significant amount of money in the property,” Bartolin said from the Broadmoor Hotel, where he is president. “The question is, how best to spend it? What do we do?”Ideally, renovation plans will be ready to roll with full approvals by next April, and the work can occur from April to November. Bartolin said the only work he is certain of is an overhaul of the building’s heating and cooling system, which is inadequate.He also anticipates refurbishing all guest rooms, corridors and public spaces and remodeling the hotel’s restaurant.”Everything we do, we want to do with a great respect to the property and the history of the building,” he said. “What it will all look like is beyond me.”The hotel’s new owners would also like to add spa facilities to their amenities but don’t know yet if they have the space to do so. Jennifer Barnhart, senior sales and public relations manager at the hotel, said adding a spa is the most frequent request made by guests.She also said the hotel might consider adding high-tech amenities to the rooms, like plasma-screen televisions, even though 35 of the rooms were just renovated on Memorial Day weekend.”I think they want to keep the hotel the same, as Aspen’s crown jewel, but bring it up to five-star level,” from the four stars rating the hotel currently holds, Barnhart said.The closure was initially scheduled to coordinate with the Aspen airport’s springtime closure to repair runways. But the airport recently announced it would be delaying its two-month closure until spring 2007 because of lack of funds.”It was really coincidental, and we thought if we were going to close the hotel, [during an airport closure] would be a good time,” Bartolin said. “But we’d like to do the improvements as soon as we possibly can, and the soonest is next April. Can we get there in April? We don’t know yet.”Guests during the summer of 2006, if improvements do occur, would have to be absorbed by other local hotels, Bartolin said.”There’s always the risk that you disenfranchise your guests and they’ll find someplace else, but that’s just part of doing business,” he said. “If we really do our jobs and create something special at the Hotel Jerome, they’ll come back and so will their friends.””I think we’re hoping that a lot of guests we have are repeat guests, since the Jerome holds a soft spot in the hearts of locals and people traveling in,” Barnhart added. “Just because they have to stay elsewhere shouldn’t deter them from coming to Aspen. We’ve been talking with other hotels here, and they’ll bend over backwards to accommodate our guests.”The Hotel Jerome was built during Aspen’s silver rush and was completed by Jerome Wheeler in 1889. Jim McManus, owner of the hotel for the last 20 years, sold the establishment to the Oklahoma Publishing Co. for $33.5 million.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is