New liquor store to join Basalt’s mix | AspenTimes.com

New liquor store to join Basalt’s mix

BASALT – A former Aspen restaurateur was awarded a license Tuesday night to open a new liquor store in downtown Basalt.

Richard Chelec will be the owner and manager of the Basalt Wine Shop, which he plans to open this fall in a small space in the western end of the Riverwalk buildings on Midland Avenue. Chelec owned the Blue Maize restaurant in Aspen for 11 years before selling it in 2008.

He said he will carry a small amount of liquor and beer, but most of his inventory will be dedicated to wines from small wineries and producers that he “believes strongly in.”

Pat Scanlan, owner of Jimbo’s, another liquor store in downtown Basalt, urged the Town Council, acting as the liquor licensing authority, to reject the request. Allowing another liquor store to open will dilute sales too much, he said.

The recession has already made times tough for liquor store owners, according to Scanlan. By adding another, Basalt might also lose one of the businesses.

“My sales are pretty lean,” Scanlan said. “I don’t personally see a need for another liquor store in Basalt.”

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In addition to Jimbo’s, the town also has Alpine Liquor in old town Basalt, and Willits Liquor and El Jebeverage in West Basalt.

Retail liquors sales is one of the few areas of Basalt’s economy that has held its own during the recession. Town sales tax revenue reports show that liquor store sales are up 1.6 percent between December and August compared to the same period the prior year. One theory is that people are dining out and bar hopping less but buying more alcohol to enjoy at home.

Chelec downplayed the competitive consequences of adding his small store to Basalt’s mix. It enhances Basalt’s reputation as a food and wine destination, he said.

The liquor licensing authority approved the request by a 7-0 vote and didn’t wade into the debate over competition.

“I don’t see this process as a means to regulate competition,” said member Chris Seldin.

The Basalt Wine Shop will open later this fall in space 11A in the Riverwalk building, now occupied by Living Color.

scondon@aspentimes.com