New Aspen nightspots raise the bar
December 18, 2007
ASPEN ” Three new bars or lounges opening this month have sunk significant capital investments in local properties with long-term leases. However, it’s an open question about whether or not Aspen will embrace the chic, high-end, urban designs of the latest additions to Aspen’s nightlife.
Owners say the three concepts should evoke a metro feel reminiscent of anything but Aspen ” or perhaps, the new Aspen.
“It’s a really contemporary design,” said Tommy Tollesson, co-owner of Social, a lounge that opened on Dec. 11. “You feel like you should be in the meat packing district or the mission district in New York City or Stockholm or London rather than in Aspen.”
Social, in the same Hopkins Avenue building as Elevation and owned by the same operators, is set up as a tapas bar with small-dish delicacies and a stylish feel for late-night cocktails.
“Our design is distinctly different from any other restaurant in Aspen,” Tollesson said. “There’s room for something like that.”
The Regal, which opened on Dec. 7 and is located where subgrade Bar Aspen (at one time, Shooters) used to be, also has a more modern feel, with a wave-like textured back wall, leather floors and DJs spinning nightly.
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Then there’s the Fly Lounge, a concept bar made popular in Washington D.C. with waitresses dressed as flight attendants, a room designed to look like the inside of an airplane and expensive bottle service at VIP tables. It’s the kind of place where you might expect to wait an hour behind a velvet rope and then be turned away at the door because you’re wearing the wrong pants.
“Jeans permitted,” reads the dress code for the D.C. restaurant, “unless ripped, torn or faded.”
Reserve a six-person private table at the D.C. Fly Lounge and expect to pay a minimum of $600 in bottle service, which could be obtained by purchasing a bottle of Dom Perignon ($895), or a pair of Grey Goose bottles ($295 each).
“It’s very exclusive, very high end,” said Richard Eidman, owner of the Fly Lounge. The new club, in the old subgrade Lava Room space on the Hyman Avenue Mall, may open as soon as the first of the year but renovations are taking slightly longer than expected.
The Regal also is seeking high-end customers, though owner Tim Chladek described his club as “something upscale but casual and unpretentious.” The leather floors, however, wouldn’t exactly suggest a place where people would go with ski boots, so maybe not quite old-school Aspen casual.
“They’re pretty much as solid as any other floor,” said Chladek. “They break in like a catcher’s mitt.”
Chladek hails from Denver but says he has been in Aspen full time for three months.
Similarly, the Fly Lounge is bringing investment money from outside of Aspen, though a manager is now living here full time.
Of the three lounges, only Social has an owner with extensive experience in the Aspen nightlife and cuisine business. In fact, Social opened on the anniversary of Tollesson’s opening of Elevation seven years ago.
“The restaurant itself is small,” he said. “Then the lounge on the top floor is separate. We still have Elevation. We have a three-story building with three different concepts, three different feels and three different ideas in the same building.”
Like the other new spots, Tollesson said he has put a significant amount of money into the remodel, design and new menu.
“I invested every penny I own in this thing,” he said.
None of the owners wanted to discuss lengths of leases, rent or how much their renovations actually cost, but they all stressed “significant” capital. They’re banking that their investments will pay off.
“Both my partner and I come from more traditional business backgrounds,” said Chladek. “We do everything we can to keep costs low. My partner owns two bars in Denver. We looked at everything and if the numbers didn’t work we wouldn’t be here. We think we’ve structured everything in a way so that we can be here for a while.”
Bar owners said there may be room for all three concepts in the same town. The Fly Lounge is seeking a very high-end clientele, while Regal may find a niche with people who “really just want to go out and have fun … but a little nicer, that you dress up for more,” said Chladek.
On the other hand, Tollesson said Social is seeking the after-dinner crowd from places like Cache Cache ” perhaps a slightly older, upscale cocktail crowd.
“The Regal and Fly Lounge have similar concepts,” said Tollesson. “I think it’s something that has been missing for a long time in Aspen. Both of them come from bigger cities and if they adjust to the small mountain town they’re in …
“You have to get locals behind you in one way or another. People don’t want traditional night clubs anymore, people look for different things. It’s good for Aspen and I wish them the best of luck. There’s room for a lot of nightlife.”