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Red Onion

M. John FayheePhotos by Mark Fox

You know you’ve got a fine-and-dandy back bar when it’s part of the local elementary school’s living-history tours.

The Red Onion’s back bar, which is probably the most noteworthy in Aspen when it comes to old-timey mountain-bar-type BS, is a focal point for kids during history tours of the city given by their obviously well-adjusted teachers.

“They’re always especially interested in the bullet hole,” says Red Onion co-owner David “Wabs” Walbert.

The actual story behind the bullet hole is a tad hazy (it comes from ski-era history rather than Wild West times). But that fact does not minimize the reality that, well, there’s a bullet hole right there in the back bar, which is part of the original decor from the late 1800s, when the establishment was known as the New Brick.

The bar was completely restored in 1947, but that restoration focused on enhancing the Red Onion’s history, rather than obliterating it. Two Hungarian Gypsy figures sit atop the back bar, just as they did more than 100 years ago. (One sits near a more modern relic: a box of “Flutie Flakes.”) One of the most captivating aspects of the Red Onion’s back bar is the “black books” that were born in 1993.

“We had a lot of people coming in who were telling us stories about the old days at the Red Onion,” Wabs says. “Like, we had one couple come in who had been married a long time who met in the Red Onion. And we had people come in who used to bartend here back in the ’40s. So we started asking people to write their stories down. We now have two entire volumes filled with those stories.”

Wabs says anyone is allowed to peruse those books, and, if appropriate, to add their own Red Onion memories.


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