Sewer backs up at Cooper Street Pier |

Sewer backs up at Cooper Street Pier

John Colson
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” A backed-up sewer line recently flooded the basement of the Cooper Street Pier bar and restaurant, prompting a bartender to close down the business on Jan. 4.

The business remained closed during the day on Monday, and an Aspen health official doubted that it would reopen that night, though she predicted it will reopen soon.

“They might be able to do it as early as tomorrow,” said Lee Cassin, director of the city’s environmental health department. “It wouldn’t be that hard to do.”

Reports from bar employees, who asked to remain anonymous, indicated that the basement, which formerly housed the Siamese Basil restaurant, was flooded by a clogged sewer line some time last week and discovered by employees while business owner Ashim KC was out of the country.

The Siamese Basil restaurant was closed down some time ago, after KC took over the Cooper Street Pier operations in 2006, though there was an unsuccessful attempt to open a nightclub business in the basement.

The sewer backup reportedly only affected the basement. There was no backup in the pipes to the main floor and to the apartment upstairs, according to the city’s health department.

KC, who returned to Aspen this week and was dealing with the problem on Monday, said he hoped to reopen the Cooper Street Pier on Monday night.

“We had a plumbing situation, that is all it was,” he said by way of explanation, after telling one of his employees that the sewer had been cleared of the blockage and that the downstairs area needed to be cleaned up. He said the blockage occurred outside the building, although he did not say it was the city’s responsibility.

In the meantime, an employee of a local carpet cleaning service stood at the front of the Cooper Street barroom, waiting to talk with KC.

City Environmental Health official Jannette Whitcomb said on Monday that the city is requiring that the carpet of the ground floor restaurant and bar be cleaned “because there might have been tracking” of contamination from the basement, from the shoes of employees or cleaning crew members who walked from the basement to the ground floor level.

Whitcomb said there also was an “environmental clean-up team” on hand Monday, hired by KC to deal with the mess in the basement, which reportedly includes the residue of a flood of sewage.

“The first floor is fine,” Whitcomb said of the main Cooper Street barroom, kitchen and other facilities, as well as an apartment on the fourth floor, which she said were not affected by the backup.

Cassin noted that the only way people might become ill as a result of the sewage flood is if they somehow ingested bacteria from the basement. Bacteria might come upstairs on the shoes or hands of someone who was downstairs for some reason, she said, which is the reason for the carpet cleaning and environmental cleanup of the basement, as well as a final inspection by her department before the restaurant can open again.

According to Tom Bracewell of the Aspen Consolidated Sanitation District, the Cooper Street basement has a separate sewer service line from the upstairs portions of the building. He said the elevation of the basement is too low for it to be hooked by gravity feed to the line that runs beneath the alley behind the building, so the basement sewer ties directly into a sewer main running underneath Galena Street.

Whitcomb said the bar and restaurant should be reopened soon, perhaps as early as Tuesday, but added that the basement part of the business is unlikely to open again after the cleanup because the entire building is scheduled for demolition and redevelopment.

The redevelopment project currently is mired in controversy, following the Aspen City Council’s rejection of the proposed plan, and the filing of a lawsuit by the partnership of owners arguing that the city overstepped its authority.

But regardless of the redevelopment fight, Whitcomb said that before the downstairs could be reopened “they would probably have to remodel.” She said the environmental cleanup will involve tearing up the flooring of the basement, at the least.

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