Justice Snow’s, city of Aspen in waiting game
The future of Justice Snow’s remained as murky Tuesday as it did Monday when Aspen City Council met privately to discuss the restaurant’s fate.
The topic was scheduled for a City Council work session Tuesday, but the matter was postponed in part because Mayor Steve Skadron was out of town and Councilwoman Ann Mullins has been out of pocket for personal reasons, city spokeswoman Mitzi Rapkin said.
The next closest date for the City Council to hash out the restaurant’s fate could come at its upcoming Monday work session, Councilman Adam Frisch said.
“My hope is that it all happens at the start of the work session Monday,” he said. “It’s in the best interest of (Michele) Kiley (the owner of Justice Snow’s), of City Hall, and most importantly, the community.”
Kiley said Tuesday she’s done all she can to persuade City Council to renew her lease for another five years at the city-owned Wheeler Opera House.
“Look at our track record, and trust us with another term,” said Kiley, who paid $40,574 to the city in back rent Friday. “That’s really my goal here, because to restructure the business is a huge commitment, and the only way it makes sense for me is with another (5-year) term.”
Justice Snow’s has been operating on a month-to-month lease for the past eight months after completing its initial 5-year term.
A number of supporters of Justice Snow’s — including employees, artists and a food vendor — attended Monday’s City Council meeting to endorse the restaurant.
“I was gratified by the people that came out on our behalf,” Kiley said. “But I don’t think the sentiment is necessarily shared by council.”
The council discussed publicly with Kiley its concerns about Justice Snow’s at a work session Oct. 16 and its regular meeting Monday.
The restaurant’s falling behind on rent didn’t set well with the council, nor did its request for the council to amend the terms of the lease by allowing it to close for two months this fall offseason and lowering its rent from 8 percent to 6 percent of its gross sales.
Kiley has since changed her tune about renegotiating terms of the lease and said she would stick to the original agreement.
“I think that everybody on council is appreciative that Kiley made true on her rent,” Councilman Ward Hauenstein said. “That was a good gesture and a good path forward, and that’s the only way there could have been a path forward.”
For now, Justice Snow’s, which has been closed since Oct. 14, faces a handful of scenarios.
The council could renew its lease for the next five years, or it could allow Justice Snow’s to continue on a month-to-month basis this winter while the council opens up a request-for-proposals process for a long-term tenant.
The council also could decide that Justice Snow’s’time has run out and seek a short-term tenant while it opens up the request-for-proposals process.
“I think if it were a question of renewing a lease by the heart, that Kiley would get a renewed lease,” Hauenstein said. “But it depends on more than just goodwill in the community. It’s a business proposition, too, and I certainly am open to her coming forward with something.”
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