Special requests from Grey Lady, Sky Hotel fall short with Aspen City Council
Two downtown Aspen businesses hoping to capitalize on popular tourist draws this winter didn’t get the grand prize they were seeking, but they did get a consolation.
The City Council denied requests from both Grey Lady restaurant and the Sky Hotel to set up temporary tents in their outdoor areas for a maximum of 60 days and 35 days, respectively, this winter. Both businesses eyed the temporary expansions to capture more business during the holidays; Aspen Gay Ski Week, from Jan. 15 to 22; and the Winter X Games, from Jan. 26 to 29.
The council opted to allow them to put up the structures for as many as 14 days. The Grey Lady received approval in January 2015 to enclose its patio through April, though City Council was adamant it was a one-time deal. It also got an 11-day temporary use approval from Dec. 24, 2015, through Jan. 3.
Owners Ryan Chadwick and Ian Perry said putting a heated tent over their public amenity spot would better serve the community than leaving it empty and decrepit during a bulk of the winter. They said they’re having difficulty attracting full-time employees because of the restaurant’s limited size, and the expanded area could increase the capacity by as many as 60 patrons and also allow them to host private events. They also said they weren’t willing to invest in a long-term structure because landlord Mark Hunt has the property eyed for development and their tenancy in the South Mill Street spot is for the short term.
Councilwoman Ann Mullins said the tent is a blight of sorts on downtown, but Perry countered that its current state isn’t exactly easy on the eyes.
“At least when people walk by they see vitality, commerce,” he said. “At least it projects some sort of image as opposed to an empty, vacant lot.”
Council members, however, said they couldn’t justify allowing as many as 60 days and followed the cue of the Community Development Department, which recommended denial on the grounds the enclosure would be out of character with the historic commercial district where it sits.
Chadwick and Perry said they will decide later which dates they want to erect the temporary structure.
The Sky Hotel, located on East Durant Avenue, proposed two temporary enclosures to serve overflow crowds from its 39 Degrees bar as well as its pool-patio area for as many as 35 days from Dec. 27 through Jan. 30.
“We just think it’s a great utilization of the space,” said Tommy Girrbach of Sky. “We want to decorate and create … a lounge-y aspect (on the outdoors areas) and alleviate the tension that grows inside the bar.”
Again, the council heeded the advice of Community Development, which recommended denial for 35 days because of the structures’ visual impacts and creation of potential noise.
Neighbors of both the Grey Lady and Sky Hotel also sent letters to the city requesting denial of the temporary structures.
Councilman Bert Myrin said the proposals signify a trend he’s not ready to embrace.
“I’m concerned about the tenting of Aspen,” he said.
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