Mountain Dragon done after ski season
The Aspen Times
Doug Mercatoris has seen it all.
Mercatoris, more commonly known as “Merc,” has seen toddlers playing on his pool tables now frequenting the Mountain Dragon as adults. He’s served dinner to such celebrities as Charles Bronson, Neil Diamond, Chevy Chase and Harold Ramos. And he saw John Denver, The Temptations and The Allman Brothers perform in his restaurant.
But after 30 years of owning and operating the Dragon, he’s decided it’s time to retire.
“It’s been an interesting and a fun haul,” Mercatoris said. “I gave it a lot of thought. I’ve considered it over the last couple years, and this is just a good time to do so. Our lease is up, and we could have renegotiated it, but … it’s time for me to retire. And with it the Dragon will be retiring.”
Mercatoris purchased the Dragon’s location, which was the Refractory Steakhouse at the time, in 1984. In the spring of 1985, he converted it into an Asian-style restaurant. Mountain Dragon is the oldest operating Asian cuisine restaurant in the valley, Mercatoris said.
Mercatoris said the key to keeping a restaurant going for three decades is good hospitality.
“Providing good quality and value, good food, a good reputation and providing just a fun, wonderful place to gather and enjoy good food and drink” are the secrets to success, he said.
A good reputation with locals, which Mercatoris certainly has enjoyed, is important too.
“And also being an owner/operator is very important,” he said. “To really give people a sense of welcome that you’re actually having them in your house to have a good time. To facilitate a good time is basically the job.”
And good times were had at the Mountain Dragon.
“It has a lot of fond memories for folks and late nights … and great food,” said Mayor Bill Boineau, also a longtime Snowmass Village resident.
Boineau called the Mountain Dragon an institution and said that Mercatoris, who was on the Snowmass Village Town Council for 18 years, is “one of those institutions on his own.” Mercatoris was mayor or mayor pro tem for 10 of those years.
Telling his employees about his decision was the first priority for Mercatoris.
“We have people that have been working with us for many years — some well over a decade have been with us — and they are happy for me and have congratulated me,” Mercatoris said. “(They) are continuing to provide the quality service and the product at the restaurant through the end of the season and taking care of all of our friends that we would like to have come in and say goodbye to the Dragon.”
Steve Alldredge, spokesman for Related Colorado, which owns the Mountain Dragon space, said the company is “investigating our options at this time” regarding its future.
“The Mountain Dragon has been an institution in Snowmass for over 30 years, and we take our hats off to Merc for that longevity,” said Dwayne Romero, president of Related Colorado. “In addition to his long business record in Snowmass, Merc should also be noted for his many years’ service on the Snowmass Village Town Council and for his many years as Snowmass’ mayor.”
Mercatoris said that once he finishes closing down the Dragon, he plans on doing some relaxing. He plans to stay in Snowmass Village for now.
“I’m looking forward to enjoying Snowmass,” Mercatoris said. “It won’t be difficult to figure out things to keep me entertained.”
Mercatoris didn’t give an exact date for the close of the restaurant but said it would be open through the end of ski season. The Mountain Dragon is one of the most popular places for participants of the Disabled American Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, held annually in early April, to hang out, he said.
“We’re looking forward to partying with them when they get in town,” Mercatoris said.