Party is over for Aspen’s outdoor spaces created during COVID

Some ‘temporary’ structures in downtown Aspen’s public right of way space to be dismantled

Patrons of Meat and Cheese dine in their outdoor seating on East Hopkins Avenue in downtown Aspen on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

The covered temporary structures that have been taking up public parking spaces in downtown Aspen since the pandemic began almost two years ago will be a thing of the past come spring.

Aspen City Council agreed on Tuesday that those structures, which includes the chalet built as an extension of French Alpine Bistro, Creperie du Village at the corner of Mill Street and Hopkins Avenue, will need to come down by May.

That goes for structures outside of Meat and Cheese Restaurant and Kemo Sabe as well.

Those temporary uses were part of the city’s restaurant activation program to support the local business community during the challenges presented by COVID-19.

The program was originally established in 2020 as a strategy to “proactively and swiftly work to minimize further economic disruption and actively encourage its recovery,” according to a memo by Hailey Guglielmo, the city’s senior project manager in the engineering department.

She elaborated for council on Tuesday during its work session.

“Each season the program has been altered slightly to respond to current public health orders and also bringing vitality to Aspen,” she said.

City Engineer Trish Aragon described it as a living lab experiment for the past two years.

“We were able to experience our roadways in a new way and reclaimed our parking spaces for restaurant and retail activation,” she said. “We also reimagined our public amenity spaces with restaurants and closed spaces, along with our sidewalks. … Now, this two-year living lab has come to a close, and we need to think about what we want to make permanent and what portions of the program need to expire.”

Council members said they supported doing away with the temporary covered structures because they do not meet energy codes or commercial design standards.

Aspen City Council decided on Tuesday that covered outdoor seating occupying parking areas in downtown Aspen will not continue through the summer. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

However, the majority of council agreed to allow temporary structures on private property to remain if they mitigate according to the city’s land use code.

Those properties include places like Ajax Tavern, Local Coffee House and Jing.

Council also agreed to discontinue allowing activations of uncovered areas in public parking spaces, which includes Spring Café and Poppycock’s.

Dedicated parking spaces for people coming to restaurants for take-out will continue, as will outdoor dining on sidewalks in the summer as long as it doesn’t impede pedestrian traffic.