Room service to time shares at Highlands Ritz-Carlton to be dry |

Room service to time shares at Highlands Ritz-Carlton to be dry

Allyn Harvey

Thirsty patrons of the Ritz-Carlton time-share units at Aspen Highlands will have to go to the bar like everyone else.

The Aspen Liquor Licensing Authority agreed yesterday to allow alcohol to be served in the soon-to-open Willow Creek restaurant and bar, on the restaurant’s deck, a neighboring pool deck, and in a special members’-only room next to the restaurant. But they denied the company permission to serve drinks to members in their rooms or penthouse suites.

“The chances of an enforcement situation here are nil to laughable, but, on the other hand, we need to have all the loops closed before I’m ready to sign off,” said liquor board member Gary Esary.

One open loop that was causing problems for Esary and his fellow board members had little to do with liquor and much to do with classification. They weren’t sure whether to consider the fractional ownership scheme at Highlands like a hotel, which requires one set of conditions with a liquor license, or a condominium with a retail operation attached.

“We have 800 people with independent real estate interests up there who aren’t subject to that agreement” on room service between the Ritz-Carlton and the restaurant, Esary said.

Ritz-Carlton manger Jud Hawk said the restaurant will open in late February. The eatery will be open to the skiing public and will have a large open deck for outdoor seating.

Another problem for the liquor board and state officials is the connection between building four, the nearly completed building on the courtyard’s west side leading to the Exhibition Chairlift, and building eight, which sits just across the courtyard and is home to the Commonwealth Pub.

Building four will be home to the new restaurant and 45 of the fractional ownership units. In addition to the Commonwealth Pub, building eight is home to employee housing and two penthouse suites; the suites need to be serviced by Ritz-Carlton staff, but the only access is through an underground garage. Neither the liquor board nor the state agency that regulates liquor sales have been able to sign off on that arrangement.

City Clerk Kathryn Koch said there were two ways to solve the problem with the garage. One is to convince the state that it is acceptable and safe for liquor and food to move through the garage and up a private elevator to the the penthouses.

The other is to get the state to classify the entire project at the base of Highlands as a resort complex, which would allow Ritz-Carlton a little more leeway in providing services.

Ritz attorney Jon Stonbraker told the board members that he would clarify the issues for the liquor board before its Feb. 6 meeting. In the meantime, the board approved liquor sales in the restaurant and club.

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