Onion gets new lease | AspenTimes.com

Onion gets new lease

Naomi Havlen

Fans of the venerable Red Onion never fear – the business has signed a new lease to serve burgers, beer and Mexican food until Sept. 30, 2005.Dave “Wabs” Walbert said he and building co-owner Charles Israel reached the agreement Wednesday. “I’m thrilled because I think it’s good to have the Red Onion continue on in Aspen, and then I have a job,” Walbert said with a chuckle.The Onion’s 20-year lease ended this year, and roughly a year ago Walbert began to wonder if his rent, reasonable in the 1980s, would be brought up to market value. He said at the time he knew he couldn’t run the restaurant and bar at market value, so the future of the restaurant was uncertain.And although a year extension on a 20-year lease may not seem like much, Walbert said it’s just enough to keep things going.”That’s all I could work out with [Israel] at this point, and I always want to continue with Red Onion,” he said.The red-brick building on the Cooper Avenue mall was built in 1892 by Tom Latta and has predominantly operated as a restaurant and bar ever since. The Red Onion, one of Aspen’s oldest businesses, operated as a gambling establishment during the silver boom of the late 1800s, and was remodeled in 1947.It was also one of Aspen’s first venues for aprés-ski and late-night entertainment that once included a performance by Billie Holiday.The early 1980s saw roughly five operators go in and out of the building, including the national hamburger chain Red Robin. In 1984 Israel offered the 20-year lease to Walbert.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com

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