Restaurants, retail expand into Aspen’s streetscape on Friday
Roughly 11 parking spaces in downtown Aspen will be converted on Friday for outdoor dining and retail shopping as city officials begin to accommodate local businesses restricted by COVID-19 public health orders.
As of Thursday afternoon, three of the 17 businesses that have applied to use the public right of way will get control of their spaces on Friday after city officials convert the spaces with jersey barriers and planters.
Pete Rice, division manager of the city’s engineering department, said Thursday cordoning off the parking spaces will be basic, until the city’s COVID-19 “Recovery Street Plan” is fleshed out as more businesses ask for what they want.
“We don’t want to spend a lot of money until we know people like it,” he said, adding that he and his team are working with each business owner to customize their right of way space. “The application process is slowing us down because people are trying to figure out what they want.”
Creperie du Village, Poppycocks Cafe and PE 101 are the first in line to get their spaces going.
The creperie will take three parallel spaces on Hopkins Avenue in front of its subterranean restaurant; PE 101 will have four angled spots on Copper Avenue just east of the retail store; and Poppycocks will take four angled spaces on Cooper in front of the restaurant.
Because eight businesses on Hopkins Avenue between Mill and Monarch streets have shown interest in having outdoor space, city officials are preparing to do a partial closure of what’s known as Restaurant Row.
The street will be closed to traffic and parking, with the exception of the Wells Fargo drive-through exit, which will allow vehicles to turn left on Hopkins Avenue, Rice said.
A total of 31 parking spaces will be taken on Hopkins, according to Mitch Osur, the city’s director of parking and downtown services.
He said he expects the change to occur on Hopkins in about two weeks.
He’s been meeting with each individual business owner around town to help devise a plan that meets the goals of both sides.
“We are pretty much letting everybody do what they want as long as (Pete and his team) says it’s safe,” Osur said. “We’re trying to find a way to say ‘yes.’”
For example, city officials are working on a customized plan for Clark’s Oyster Bar on Hyman Avenue so that the restaurant can take over the sidewalk and parking spaces would be transformed into an ADA-compliant walkway.
Rice said each business has a different idea or need.
“I think people are going to get creative and they just need to be communicating with the city and we’ll work it out,” he said. “We’ll just keep modifying it until everyone’s happy.”
Aspen City Council on Monday agreed to allow public right of way space to be converted to help jumpstart the summer economy for local businesses, who have been shuttered since March under public health orders.
Restaurants last week were able to open at 50% capacity with tables spaced 8 feet apart.
Other restaurants that have applied for a special right of way permit are Matsuhisa, Aspen Public House, Spring Cafe, Pinon’s, Silver City and Casa Tua, as well as those on Restaurant Row, including White House Tavern, Steak House 316, Meat & Cheese and Brunelleschi’s.
On the retail front, Wind River Gallery, B Jewel, the Hub and Mark Richards also have applied for outdoor space.
Osur said he predicts that around 30 businesses will ask for some outdoor space, totaling about 100 parking spaces being used for commerce. There are 682 spaces located in the downtown core.
Osur said business owners reached out to him on Thursday asking if they can use tents, to which he said yes.
“Everyone wants to do something different and we will see what works and what doesn’t, and what they can live with and what they can’t,” he said. “I applaud the different ideas from people who are trying to make things work.”
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