Lease ﬁnalized for former Hunter Bar space in Aspen
October 8, 2012
ASPEN – The eatery taking over the basement space of the Bidwell Building in downtown Aspen, formerly home of the Hunter Bar, could be open by Thanksgiving.
That’s the word from the new tenant in the spot, Ryan Sweeney, who is planning a restaurant focusing on pizza, salads and items similar to his other operation in the area, Highlands Pizza.
“If it turns out that we open the first or second week of December, I’m not going to be too upset,” he said.
Sweeney says he’s going into Aspen as a solo venture, without his partners in the five-year-old pizza shop near the base of the Aspen Highlands ski area. His lease with the Bert Bidwell Investment Corp., owner of the 47-year-old building, was finalized late last week. Neither he nor a representative of the building would disclose terms of the agreement.
He said the seven-day-a-week restaurant will feature table service and an arcade area. Sweeney envisions it as a place for people wanting to stop in for a quick meal and a drink in the evening before heading somewhere else and also for families. He also wants to tap into the lunch crowd, providing quick slices to workers in a hurry. The kitchen will close at midnight, and he’s not looking to compete with other late-night bars or eateries, he said.
Sweeney said he hasn’t decided on a name for the business yet. He still has a lot of work to do before opening, such as refurbishing the interior and obtaining a liquor license.
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“I’m not exactly sure what prompted me to do it,” he said of his entry into the downtown Aspen scene. “I wanted to expand a little bit. I got a pretty good lease rate on the space. I think it’s a great location, and I kind of wanted to try our model that we had in Highlands.”
The new restaurant will differ from Highlands Pizza in some aspects, Sweeney said.
“We’ll probably expand the entrees a little bit and get into some pasta dishes,” he said. “I think at Highlands, the name of the game is that people want fast service. I don’t want to say that this is going to be more high-end or upscale, but it’s for people who aren’t in as much of a rush.”
The Bidwell Building at the corner of the Cooper Avenue pedestrian mall and South Galena Street is under contract to a prospective buyer. The listing price was $27 million, but a representative of the building would not disclose the final terms of that purchase, which closes in December. At 16,950 square feet, the two-story building with subgrade space (where Sweeney’s business will be operating) also is known as the Mountain Plaza Building. It’s currently the home of retailer Kemo Sabe and other businesses.
Earlier this year, Charles Cunniffe Architects, on behalf of the new buyer, submitted to the city of Aspen an application for its redevelopment. That project has yet to wind its way through the public process, including City Council review.
Sweeney said a confidentiality agreement prevents him from disclosing the length of his lease, but he said it’s safe to say that he wants to be in the Bidwell Building for the long term.
“I’m guaranteed to be there long enough to make me comfortable,” he said. “I’m going to invest a good chunk of money to make the space a lot nicer. I certainly plan on doing business there much longer than a year. I don’t want to get into what the lease says.”
Many tenants have occupied the space over the past few decades, including Pinocchio’s pizzeria, Gracie’s consignment shop, the restaurant/nightclub known as NXT, the nightclubs Hannibal Brown’s and the Howling Wolf, and the Flying Dog Brew Pub. Local rug purveyor Noori’s Collection also has used the space.
Existing pizza operations in Aspen include Dominos, a delivery chain; Taster’s, located next door to the Rio Grande Parking Garage; Brunelleschi’s, a more upscale operation with table service in the Mill Street Plaza; and New York Pizza, which has been located in the Hyman Avenue pedestrian mall for more than 20 years.