La Co to reopen under new name, new owners | AspenTimes.com

La Co to reopen under new name, new owners

Janet Urquhart

While the new owners of the former La Cocina work on future plans for the restaurant property, it will open this winter with a familiar, yet different feel.Longtime former owners Nick and Sarah Lebby and their daughters won’t be running the place, but diners will find sort of a “greatest hits” menu of old favorites and new offerings, according to local restaurateur Walt Harris, one of a group of investors who finalized their purchase of the restaurant last week.The Hopkins Avenue restaurant will have new fare in the familiar southwest/Mexican vein of the old La Co, as locals called the establishment. Former La Cocina chef Tim Higgins will be running the kitchen. Harris is still brainstorming on a new name for the place. The old La Cocina sign has been removed, and the restaurant is currently closed for the off-season.”We would have loved to maintain Nick’s legacy with the La Cocina name, but Nick and Sarah … a little too close to home. They didn’t want to go there,” Harris said. “So much of the name and the menu were close to the heart of Sarah and Nick, they didn’t want us to do exact copies.”I’ve heard comments from people – don’t change a thing, to change everything,” Harris added.Harris opened Syzygy, another Aspen restaurant, in 1987.He and his partners are currently exploring redevelopment options for the La Cocina property. It’s possible Syzygy, now located on a second floor off Hyman Avenue, could relocate to the spot at some point, he said.”It’s just a matter of working with the city … just kind of seeing what we can do with the space,” Harris said.Nick Lebby successfully appealed to the Historic Preservation Commission in 2001 to have a historic designation lifted from the La Co building, so there is no requirement that any part of the structure be preserved.Commercial core zoning allows a structure of up to 42 feet in the front and 46 feet in the rear on the site, according to Chris Bendon, head city planner. The property, however, lies within a protected viewplane of Aspen Mountain from the front of the Hotel Jerome, which could impact the allowed height of a new building on the parcel, he said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com