New restaurant for Aspen golf course
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” Ownership of the restaurant at the Aspen Golf Club is changing hands, with longtime local restaurateur Shlomo Ben-Hamoo walking away from his lease a year early.
Beginning this spring, Shlomo’s on the Green will become Red Mountain Grille, which will be owned and operated by Jamie Ramey and Rich Burbidge, the current managers of the restaurant.
Steve Aitken, director of golf, will propose a 5-year lease for the Red Mountain Grille at half of the cost of Shlomo’s rent, which was $20,000 a year.
If approved by the Aspen City Council on March 24, Red Mountain Grille will pay $10,000 a year.
The reduced rent will enable the new operators to extend the hours of operation, which has been a bone of contention with golfers in recent years who have complained that Shlomo’s on the Green wasn’t open often enough.
The city’s lease with Shlomo wasn’t structured in a way that required the restaurant to be open during crucial times for golfers at the municipal course. That will change with the new lease.
“We want it tailored to golf,” Aitken said, adding the reduced rent is a subsidy of sorts. “[The restaurant] is not a real money maker for the operation; we look at it as an amenity.”
Golf course restaurants around Colorado also struggle with making a profit and face the same issues of high operational expenses while trying to meet the needs of golfers, Aitken said.
With any city-owned building, a Request For Proposals process is done in an attempt to find competing businesses that are interested in the lease. But in years past, Aitken said there’s been hardly any interest from restaurateurs to open up shop at the golf course, especially operating it year-round.
“It’s hard to find qualified applicants,” Aitken said. “No one would do it in the winter time, they wouldn’t touch it.”
The City Council will be asked to sign off on Red Mountain Grille without going out for bid on the lease. Aitken argues that because Ramey and Burbidge already comanaging the restaurant and have for two years, they are the best candidates to take over the operation.
“A successful restaurant operator needs to be there, on site, and these guys are,” Aitken said. “That’s how you fill the niche and needs of the customers.”
In the past year or so, Shlomo’s focus has turned to other interests and the restaurant appears to have become a low priority for him. Ramey and Burbidge are young, aggressive and ready to make a go of their new business.
“You’ve got two guys who really care about it,” Aitken said. “They are exactly what we need. They definitely want to step it up and make people happy.
“The passion of the operator to do that wasn’t there.”
Ramey has been overseeing the restaurant operations all winter, which has been open Wednesday through Sunday, primarily to serve nordic skiers on the golf course. Winter hours end this weekend.
Ramey and Burbidge will use the weeks before the golf course opens as a transition period to establish their corporation and tweak the restaurant operation.
During the golf season, Red Mountain Grille will open at 7 a.m. instead of 10:30 a.m., and later into the evening. That means breakfast for early morning golfers and additional bar service. The previous lease only required the restaurant to be open until 6 p.m. Ramey said that will change this season.
The menu won’t change much and neither will the prices, which average in the $10 range, Ramey said.
“It will be affordable for locals and a good deal for tourists,” Ramey said.
Asked why he and his new business partner want to enter into a venture that’s difficult to turn a profit, Ramey replied, “I don’t think it’s everyone’s chosen profession. I’m a chef and you don’t always do it for the money.”
However, Ramey and Burbidge believe they can make the business successful.
Part of their business plan is to capture the local crowd who live at Truscott and around the golf course off of Cemetery Lane.
“It would seem to be a natural,” Aitken said. “They have a captive audience.”
Ramey and Burbidge have extensive culinary experience. They both have worked at the Aspen Skiing Co.’s restaurants, with Burbidge currently the executive chef at the Merry Go Round at Aspen Highlands.
Ramey has worked at Shlomo’s since 2004, working part-time during the summer months. He became a full-time employee in 2005 and started co-managing it with Burbidge shortly after.
In 2006, discussions about taking over the business began. Last year it was decided that Shlomo would step aside.
“I would like to thank Shlomo because without him, we wouldn’t be able to do this,” Ramey said.
Cart service on the golf course is expected to improve as well, with proposed hours of operation to be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with additional service as needed.
It’s unknown when the course will open, considering there is three feet of snow on the links right now. Aitken expects to be open by mid-April, if the weather cooperates.
Season passes are on sale. A 20-punch pass is $475 if purchased by April 1. After that, it will jump to $525. Season passes are $1,000 until April 1, and after that the season passes will be $1,200.
On a recent trip to Spain, I discovered something that I believe tops the espresso martini. It’s called a barraquito.