Records: Restaurant owes money all over Aspen |

Records: Restaurant owes money all over Aspen

Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times

Owners of a high-end restaurant at the base of Aspen Mountain that appears to have closed clearly had problems paying the bills, according to court and public records.

In the past five months, Nello Alpine Aspen, located in the Residences at the Little Nell complex, is or has been the subject of three lawsuits, three small-claims cases and is the reason why six businesses have filed liens against the owner of the restaurant space totaling more than $300,000, according to records.

While it was unclear Friday exactly when the restaurant closed, it had only been open since late December. On Friday, workers were setting up the space for a Food & Wine Classic event.

Efforts to reach famed Manhattan restaurateur Nello Balan and his daughter, Lucy Balan, were not successful Friday. However, Nello general manager Lenny Lorando said in a text message that the restaurant would re-open July 15. Lorando said he would call an Aspen Times reporter with more information but never did.

May Selby, spokeswoman for the Residences at the Little Nell, said she hadn’t heard anything about the restaurant closing. Aspen Skiing Co., which owns the Residences, does not own the Nello restaurant space, she said.

Efforts to reach Ashkenazy Aspen Realty, the New York company that owns the restaurant space, were not successful Friday.

John Sarpa, a local developer who has worked with Ashkenazy, said Friday he hadn’t had any recent discussions with the owners about the property. Asked if he had contact information for Nello Balan, Sarpa said, “That’s part of the problem.” He declined to comment further.

The largest lawsuit against Nello Balan and his company was filed Thursday by Regan Construction Inc., of Aspen, which claims that Nello Alpine Aspen owes it $240,836 for work done on the space last fall. The company says it “fast-tracked the work” so the restaurant could be open by Christmas, according to the lawsuit.

Regan Construction also has filed a lien in the same amount against Ashkenazy, according to records at the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder’s Office.

Local developer Steve Stunda filed suit against Nello Balan’s company March 8 alleging that the company rented a home on Fourth Street in November for $6,800 a month and failed to pay rent in February or March, according to the lawsuit. It also claims the company didn’t pay a $5,400 commission to a rental agent.

Wine wholesaler Old World Wines filed suit against the company March 2 alleging a debt of $20,750.

In addition, a computer company, a business services company and a publisher have all filed small-claims cases against Nello Balan and his company, according to court records. Pitkin County Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely granted a judgment of $197 to the computer company in April, while the business services company received a default judgment of $1,797 last month when no one from the restaurant showed up in court to contest it, records state. The publisher claims he is owed $810, though that case has not yet been decided.

Finally, five companies have filed liens against the owner of the restaurant space alleging unpaid debts.

Empire Drywall says it’s owed $27,547, while Villarreal Rasmussen Cabinetmakers says it hasn’t received $25,417 for work the company did at Nello Alpine Aspen. RPC Ltd. claims it is owed $17,059, and Reeves and Sons Electric says it wasn’t paid $14,871. Lastly, Gaard Moses of Old Snowmass says he’s owed $9,804.

Nello Balan operated a pricey Manhattan restaurant for years that also was named for him. He stepped away from the restaurant last year, according to a New York Post story, though he said in the story he still owned 50 percent of it.