New restaurant is briefly in hot seat |

New restaurant is briefly in hot seat

Janet Urquhart

Hannibal Brown’s, a new Aspen restaurant and nightclub, opened recently without a required inspection by the fire marshal – an omission that briefly threatened to bring the wrath of the Aspen liquor board down upon the establishment.

The Aspen Liquor Licensing Authority previously approved the restaurant’s liquor license on several conditions, including a pre-opening inspection by Fire Marshal Ed Van Walraven.

The restaurant did not arrange for the inspection before its Thanksgiving weekend opening, though fire department officials did conduct their inspection last week, Van Walraven told the liquor board Tuesday.

“I think this is pretty bad, frankly,” said board member Gary Esary. “It wouldn’t take much to talk me into an order to show cause [a formal hearing] on this one.”

The restaurant, operating in the subgrade space formerly occupied by the Flying Dog Brew Pub and then the Howling Wolf, has been drawing big crowds, he noted.

The fact that the remodeled restaurant opened without a fire inspection “scares the heck out of me,” Esary said.

“In my viewpoint, you didn’t have a license because you didn’t have a fire inspection,” said member Bill Murphy. “I don’t know what to do about that.”

Board members softened their tone, however, after restaurant owner Tom Logan and manager Judd Kleiman said they relied on assurances from a city building inspector that the restaurant had fulfilled all of its requirements and could open.

“As far as we knew, we were good to go,” Kleiman said.

The board sent Logan and Kleiman off to round up the restaurant’s general manager and building contractor and produce proof that the building inspector had issued his final approval. They returned with both individuals and a certificate from the building inspector.

The restaurant also needed a letter of completion, though, signed by the health inspector, fire marshal and zoning officer Sarah Oates. All three individuals told the board they have not signed such a document, which is prepared by the building department.

The health inspection did, however, take place, said health inspector Jannette Whitcomb.

Last week’s fire inspection confirmed a serious flaw with the hood in the kitchen, according to Van Walraven. The defect does not pose an immediate danger but could result in a fire down the road if grease builds up, he said.

The restaurant’s operators were aware of the problem before the fire inspection took place, Van Walraven said.

The problem has a “Band-Aid fix” on it now; a new hood is being manufactured, and delivery is expected in three weeks, according to the restaurant’s representatives.

Beginning Jan. 1, a change in city procedures may help prevent a repeat of Hannibal Brown’s errors, according to Oates. The building inspector will no longer give a final OK until all the necessary referral agencies, like the fire department, have signed off, she said.

“I think there have been mistakes made on both sides,” concluded Terry Allen, liquor board chairman.

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