Little Annies liquor-free for a month | AspenTimes.com

Little Annies liquor-free for a month

John Colson

Little Annie’s Eating House will be just that, an eating house, next month.The venerable Aspen restaurant must close its bar Oct. 2-31 as part of an agreement with the Colorado Department of Revenue, according to Little Annie’s spokesman Mike Otte.The liquor license suspension, which has yet to be formally signed by the head of the department, is in response to the Dec. 2 drug raids on Little Annie’s and neighboring Cooper Street.In those raids, which involved nearly 50 local, state and federal officers, 21 people were arrested, 11 on immigration charges and 10 for the sale or possession of cocaine. Only one of those defendants, Little Annie’s employee Fernando Leal Ruiz, went to trial; he was acquitted last week. The others have either pleaded guilty or been released.According to Otte, the 30-day suspension of Little Annie’s liquor license represents half of a 60-day suspension; the second half will be put on hold for a year. If there are no liquor code violations within that year, the second 30-day suspension will be nullified.”The agreement … reflects a difficult decision for the management team at Little Annie’s,” Otte wrote in a prepared statement, noting that the restaurant’s owners and management were “very pleased” when Ruiz was acquitted.”However, his acquittal does not work to fully exonerate Annie’s management under the differing standards of the liquor licensing action. Therefore, in consideration of the stress and burdens to our loyal employees and their families, we have decided to enter into this agreement.”Otte’s statement also serves to “apologize to [Annie’s] many loyal and supportive patrons for the licensing violation which occurred here” and pledges that “Annie’s has always tried and will continue to try to be the kind of local neighborhood family establishment that this community wants.”He said the business will miss the revenue that normally comes in from alcohol sales, but added that “there’s been a tremendous amount of support” from the community already in the months since the raids and the owners decided to keep the kitchen open during the suspension.He said bartenders who don’t want to take the month as vacation time will remain on the payroll, noting, “I’ve got real supportive ownership.” Otte described the restaurant’s owners as a family that has owned property in Aspen for 40 years, although he declined to identify them citing privacy concerns.Otte said he expects the agreement to be formally ratified by the state this week.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com