Snowmass wants Krabloonik owners to explore ways to keep open restaurant

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times

Snowmass’ elected officials aren’t ready to let go of Krabloonik’s long-standing restaurant or the town-owned property on which the business operates.

Krabloonik owners Danny and Gina Phillips appeared before Town Council on Monday night requesting a few changes to their lease with the Snowmass government, which leases the land to the dog-sledding business and restaurant for $10 per year.

The Phillips’ ideal scenario would be that the town waives the restaurant requirement and allows them to buy the property sooner than their lease allows.

All five Town Council members, however, maintained that other options must be explored before the Phillipses can close the nearly 40-year-old restaurant.

The council repeatedly referenced Krabloonik’s legacy as a Snowmass institution and stressed the restaurant’s role as part of the package.

“I’m disappointed that the restaurant’s not open. I think there’s some other options that can happen,” Town Councilman Tom Goode said. “It’s such a unique building, and a unique spot in Snowmass, that I’d hate to see it go away.”

The restaurant closes at about 6 p.m. each night, Danny Phillips said. Their lease currently states: “Consistent with past operations, the Krabloonik Restaurant shall be open for dinner business at least 100 days during each ski season.”

The Phillipses rationed that “a lot of things have changed” since the town initially crafted the 20-year lease.

Krabloonik founder Dan MacEachen entered into the lease with the town of Snowmass on Sept. 25, 2006. The Phillipses bought the business in December 2014 from MacEachen, who died in February 2016. The lease, which is until Sept. 25, 2026, was amended in June of 2015 with the change in ownership.

“There’s a ton of restaurants in the village now, there’s new restaurants coming, and it’s getting harder and harder to find staff for an off-the-bus-system restaurant,” Danny Phillips said at the meeting. “The restaurant isn’t lucrative at all. It’s something that takes a lot of time, energy and money and falls short every season.”

Council acknowledged that a slew of development surrounding the Krabloonik area over the past couple of decades — including the Divide subdivision and an Aspen Skiing Co. maintenance facility — has made the property far less accessible to skiers.

While it is still possible to access on skis, Gina Phillips said, “It’s just really technical.”

Snowmass Mayor Markey Butler asked the Phillipses if they had reached out to Skico about “accommodating,” to which the owners said they had not.

Working with Skico, improved ski-trail signage to access Krabloonik, increased marketing and hiring a consultant were among council’s suggestions throughout the meeting.

During discussion of bringing in an outside party at one point, Gina Phillips said, “We have to make decisions for the best things for the business.

“And if part of the business is not working and not making money, it doesn’t lie on the town, it lies on us. And so we have to have a certain amount of autonomy to be able to make these decisions for the town.”

The mayor countered: “You’re sitting on land that’s highly valued as a piece of property in this community that a very modest amount of rent is paid to the town. And we, as a town, have invested a lot of time and energy to make sure that Krabloonik is there. And we understand you don’t want people in (your) business, but we’re trying to figure out how best could we make something work that perhaps hasn’t been considered.”

Goode, as with other members of Town Council, commended the Phillipses for their efforts with the dog-sledding operations. He suggested they focus more of their energy on the restaurant.

“You’re in the dog business, and you’re doing well at it, and you’re making money at it, and the restaurant’s pulling you down,” Goode said. “But in the same token, you signed up for the whole package when you made the agreement to take on the lease.”

One request Town Council did oblige was the Phillips’ plea to house more dogs. To date, the maximum number of dogs Krabloonik is allowed to care for is 180; however, council agreed to a cap of 225.

Danny Phillips said the goal was originally set with the idea that folks would adopt the older, retired sled dogs, which proved to be more difficult than expected.

As far as buying the land, council said it was unwilling to entertain such a notion at this time.

According to the lease, the owners are eligible to purchase the property anytime after June 1, 2025. The Phillipses, however, expressed interest in doing so sooner.

The town’s most up-to-date estimate on the property’s value is from the lease circa 2006. It states: “The ‘option price’ is $2.3 million plus the increase, if any, in the Boulder, Colorado Consumer Price Index or 3 percent annually, whichever is lower, from Sept. 26, 2006, to the date that the option is exercised.”

Town Manager Clint Kinney said after the meeting that town staff would work with the Phillipses to develop a proposal amending the restaurant language in the lease to revisit at a future date.