No physical injuries, but Aspen scare isnt without victims
ASPEN One Aspen police official estimated that the New Years Eve bomb scare that closed the towns commercial core caused losses in the millions of dollars to Aspen businesses.The estimate of losses came from Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn during a Thursday press conference about the incident, which shut down all downtown businesses within a 16-block radius of the threatened banks after police got calls about suspicious packages from the bank managers.The packages, wrapped like Christmas gifts, were planted in banks and an alley by former longtime Aspen resident Jim Blanning, who police say was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Thursday morning east of Aspen.According to reports, the packages contained explosive devices.Linn said the incident, which started at midafternoon on Wednesday and extended far into Thursday night, probably cost local law enforcement between $150,000 and $200,000.But for the restaurants, bars and liquor stores that were under mandatory evacuation orders, the sums involved were considerably greater, although several business owners praised the police for a quick and thorough response to the threat.It was pretty impressive, the way they did the whole deal, said Gary Plumley of the Grape & Grain liquor store on Hopkins Avenue. Plumley estimated that he lost roughly 60 percent of his anticipated sales for New Years Eve because he closed at about 4 p.m. and did not reopen until Thursday.That level of financial loss was reflected in statements by other liquor store managers at such businesses as Local Spirits and Carls Wine Cellar.You had a $60,000 dinner planned last night, said Linden Nelson, owner of the Crystal Palace Grille on Hopkins Avenue, discussing the losses of the night with his partner, executive chef Brad Smith.Linden explained that the Palace Grille was prepping food for an invitation-only party for more than 200 people when the restaurant received a reverse-911 emergency call from police.Smith said the wait staff and kitchen crew had to immediately wrap up and store as much of the perishable foods as they could before leaving. Smith said there was some hope that the threat would be neutralized in time for some of the nights parties to be salvaged, but by 8:30 p.m. he returned to the restaurant to finish cleaning up and storing the food for later consumption.Were inviting our people back tonight, Nelson said Thursday, explaining that the restaurant had contacted those with New Years Eve reservations and had spent the day preparing the decor and the food for a New Years Day celebration.Were making this a party to really celebrate that 09 is here, not the end of 08, Nelson said, expressing a sentiment that was echoed in numerous interviews conducted Thursday by The Aspen Times.Restaurants that were open for lunch were doing brisk business on Thursday, but restaurateurs could only shake their heads over the lost revenue that resulted from the shutdown of much of the towns commercial center on Wednesday night.Samantha Cordts-Pearce, co-owner of both LuLu Wilson and the Wild Fig, told a reporter: Between the two restaurants, Id say [the losses are] $40,000 to $50,000.At Bentleys, where many locals were expected to ring in the new year, manager Keith Hatanaka paused in the rush of business to declare, Yes, I was inconvenienced, and yes, we lost huge.Hatanaka declined to give specifics, but said it is typically one of the biggest nights of the year and estimated that he lost between half to three-quarters of the revenues he had been hoping for.At Asie on Main Street, the staff prepared to reopen for lunch and dinner on Thursday amid streamers dangling from helium balloons that still clung to the ceiling. The restaurant planned to leave the decorations up, but its receipts will be down, said co-owner Young Yang.The restaurant was forced to close its doors before 6 p.m. Wednesday, ushering a few diners out with their dinners packed in to-go boxes. Those customers were also given a discount on their dinner bills, Yang said.The bulk of the evenings business some 150 dinner reservations and a couple thousand dollars worth of takeout orders was lost, he said. The lost revenue will probably equal about 15 percent of Asies revenues for the winter season, Yang said.Thats a lot of money for us, he said.Mezzaluna on Cooper Avenue was packed with an aprs-ski crowd when it was instructed to evacuate at about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, said owner Deryk Cave. The place was just about completely full, with two [people] deep at the bar, he said.Two planned New Years Eve dinner seatings did not take place. In all, the restaurant had reservations for about 175 people between the two seatings $21,000 worth of revenue not including beverage sales, he said.Cave said he intends to find out if he has insurance that will cover the interruption of business.Tomorrow, were going to look at our policy and see if we can recover anything, he said. Im sure everyone is going to try.Cave and others wondered how police determined the boundaries of the evacuation zone.The Hotel Jerome, a block away from Wells Fargo Bank, where Blanning delivered one bomb, was evacuated, but then allowed to reopen at around 8:30 p.m. Cave’s restaurant, roughly a block and a half from Vectra Bank, also the recipient of a bomb, was forced to close and remain so.Also allowed to remain open were big hotels The Little Nell and the St. Regis, which were outside of the evacuated area, as was Ruths Chris Steakhouse on the Cooper Avenue mall.It was our biggest night ever, said Norm Word, general manager, who explained that they had been expecting roughly 200 diners that evening, but we did a little over 300. The last hour or so was pretty crazy, because the restaurant was running low on food.I think its very interesting that the large corporate interests were allowed to stay open and the locally owned, small operators were forced to close, Cave said. I think the lines were drawn corporately.Pacifica, a seafood restaurant on the Mill Street mall, was initially outside the evacuation boundary, as well, and was able to serve its first of two dinner seatings, said general manager Nathan Harnish. But, authorities expanded the evacuation area as the evening went on, and the restaurant closed before it could hold its second seating.Harnish said the nearby D19 had closed at around 7:30 p.m., about an hour before Pacifica. He estimated Pacifica’s lost revenue at close to $20,000.The restaurants that didnt even get to open I feel sorry for them, he said.The Cantina, across Mill Street and less than a block away from Wells Fargo Bank, was forced to close at about 4 p.m. Wednesday, according to manager Alexandra Noronha. The bar and restaurant had planned to shut down at 6 p.m. and reopen at 9:30 p.m. for a New Years Eve party featuring an open bar and DJ. It had sold about 180 reservations, at $120 per person, for the party, but was refunding all of the money, she said.Instead, the Cantina was planning to offer several hours of free drinks on Thursday evening to cheer up the community, Noronha said.Though the business lost revenue, she put the evacuation into perspective: You know something, if the bomb had really blown up, the lives are more important than the money.It is unfortunate that this event disrupted peoples celebrations and inflicted financial harm in an already difficult year for business owners, visitors and employees who need the work and, in many cases, the tip income, said Mayor Mick Ireland in a prepared statement. However, given the threat to public safety, I believe we did the right thing in closing down part of downtown and I am glad that no one was firstname.lastname@example.org
Aspen Times writer Janet Urquhart contributed to this report.
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