Bootsy Bellows agreement with Aspen has Sandler stepping down

A "Notice of Closure" sign by Pitkin County Public Health was posted on the door of Bootsy Bellow.
Maddie Vincent/The Aspen Times

Attorneys for Bootsy Bellows and the city of Aspen have reached a tentative agreement that would include stripping Andrew Sandler of his managerial role and banning him from the nightclub’s premises for 30 days.

The final say, however, will come from the Local Licensing Authority, a volunteer board of residents who can grant and refuse liquor and marijuana licenses, and investigate and fine businesses. The LLA is scheduled to review the settlement agreement for final approval at a show cause teleconference hearing Wednesday.

“There is a factual basis for accepting this proposal that is being submitted, including Mr. Sandler removing himself as a manager,” City Attorney Jim True said at an Aug. 26 hearing with the LLA and Chris Bryan, attorney for Bootsy Bellows. Sandler also attended the video conference. “There might be a lot of facts that are still disputed. We are not trying to resolve all of those facts for this settlement.”

This week’s hearing will come after Aspen police cited the club for violating multiple public health orders stemming from the coronavirus pandemic; the bar was allegedly open and serving alcohol five minutes before 1 a.m. Aug. 1 when police dropped by on what they said was routine patrol.

Bars aren’t allowed to be open per county and state public health orders, and restaurants were not allowed to serve alcohol past 10 p.m. on the date of the alleged transgressions, which prompted Pitkin County Public Health to shut down Bootsy Bellows (even though it can’t be operating anyway under health orders).

At last week’s hearing, the board tentatively OK’d the settlement agreement in a 3-1 decision, but it had yet to review point-of-sale documents for Bootsy Bellows and other evidence related to the case.

Bryan said the agreement means Sandler is admitting Bootsy Bellows violated public health orders. Police estimate 50 to 75 people were in the nightclub. Some were wearing masks at the time police were there; others were not.

“In addition, Mr. Sandler will receive from my law firm (Garfield & Hecht PC), presuming we get approval from the LLA, a letter that bars him from coming on the premises for 30 days,” Bryan said. “And I think that is painful for him to come to terms to with this, because this is his business.”

Sandler would also be stripped of his managerial capacity of the Bootsy Bellows LLC, with that power being transferred to his brother Justin. As well, J.J. McDaniel would become the general manager of both Bootsy Bellows and the restaurant Scarlett’s.

Scarlett’s and Bootsy Bellows have operated under the same management, and they along with Over Easy Breakfast Club share the same liquor license at 204 S. Galena St.

“The fact that Andrew Sandler has decided to step away from his own business shows that he understands what’s gone on and that he’s basically willing to put his own business into his brother’s hands and J.J. McDaniel’s hands,” Bryan said.

Sandler has maintained that Bootsy Bellows was not open, and that a group of people entered the establishment through unlocked back door with their own alcohol.

“There were absolutely no transactions at Bootsy Bellows,” he told the LLA. “Bootsy Bellows has been closed since March 1. The same dirt is on the floor. There was no ice in the wells, no liquor in the coolers, no liquor in the wells, absolutely no transactions taking place at that club.”

He added, “There was no liquor or food being offered. There was liquor being stolen.”

Sander was responding to questions from LLA member Amos Underwood, who cast the dissenting vote on the agreement.

True cut short the Underwood-Sandler exchange.

“I don’t want to delve into a hearing here. … I would emphasize my position has been there is sufficient and significant evidence of violations of various rules and regulations including the face-mask rules and if this went to a hearing, I believe there would be sufficient evidence to justify significant action on behalf of the board.

“We are proposing this as a stipulated agreement to address what is a concern and to offer a resolution that is acceptable to Bootsy Bellows and the city.”

Video evidence from police body camera shows what appear to be servers behind the bar and people drinking. At one point a patron tells police she had just paid for bottle service and wanted to recap the $150 bottles to take home, prompting an officer to suggest she use cellophane.