Pacifica restaurant in Aspen won’t reopen, owner says

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Andre Salvail/The Aspen Times

An open secret around Aspen for the last few weeks has been confirmed: The South Mill Street restaurant Pacifica has closed its doors.

Owner Russell Hoffberger said that the business has been lucrative but that it’s simply time for him to move on. He is trying to sell the assets, chiefly restaurant equipment — along with a lease that doesn’t expire until the end of June 2015 — through commercial real estate and business broker Bob Langley.

About three weeks ago, rumors swirled that the restaurant was closing and the employees, which numbered about 60 during the summer and 30 in the winter, had been notified. Hoffberger told The Aspen Times earlier this month that although he was planning to sell the business, he would reopen in early December for the coming winter season.

On Sunday, he said he has since changed his mind and is getting out of the restaurant business.

“I finally just decided I wanted to sell it; now’s the time and I didn’t want to put everybody through the uncertainty,” Hoffberger said. “I had people calling me and asking, ‘What are you doing? What are you doing?’ I finally just said, ‘Let’s go ahead and close, let everybody go and do what they want to do, and not be on the fence.’”

Hoffberger bought the business about nine years ago from a Connecticut company that had a few other restaurants in the area. His landlord is 305-07 Mill Street LLC, led by developer Mark Hunt, which bought the building in April 2011. Hoffberger recalled he wanted to renovate the building in 2011 but couldn’t reach an agreement with the new owners.

“I am selling the opportunity for somebody to get into that space,” he said. “It is an awesome space in a great location and has a hell of a lot of potential. After 35 years of being in the restaurant business, I just decided I am not the one to carry it to the next level. I’ve been doing restaurants since I was 13 years old and I have other opportunities that have come up.”

A Carbondale resident, Hoffberger said he’s had “a great set of employees over the years” and the closing is not a reflection of his workers’ performance.

“I’ve had some of the same people with me ever since I took it over,” he said. “It’s been a great family there but sometimes things have to change. … My chef (Barclay Dodge) and general manager (Sonya Lutgring) have been doing a fantastic job but unfortunately they are not in a position to buy the business from me.”

Pacifica’s official size is recorded as 3,420 square feet, which includes the basement. The restaurant’s menu centered around various oyster and seafood offerings. The eatery, located in the downtown pedestrian mall on the northeastern edge of Wagner Park, also had a popular bar area and provided patio dining during summers.