Spots abound to catch NFL football in Aspen
September 8, 2011
ASPEN – The demise of two longtime Aspen watering holes that catered to die-hard football fans has left some locals scratching their heads in wonder about where to watch their favorite NFL teams.
Landscaper Ricardo Gomez said he found a home last season at Bad Billy’s, where the drinks were cheap compared to most other Aspen venues and a TV was always available so that he could watch his beloved San Francisco 49ers. Now, like many other residents bemoaning the loss of that establishment, as well as Bentley’s at the Wheeler, he’s not sure where he’ll be spending his Sunday afternoons.
“Aspen bars are expensive, but Bad Billy’s was always reasonable and always had a great football atmosphere,” Gomez said Wednesday. “I can’t afford the NFL Sunday Ticket that gives you all the games and I can’t get it anyway because I don’t have satellite TV. I don’t know what I’m gonna do; I guess I have to check out some new places.”
Gomez and others who share his predicament are in luck. Many downtown nightspots are stepping up their efforts to lure the football fans who formerly relied on Bad Billy’s (formerly Cooper Street Pier) and Bentley’s for reasonable food and drink prices, and enough TV monitors to ensure that their team would be on display.
The pro football season gets under way at 6:30 p.m. Thursday with a marquee matchup between the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. The two NFC teams are the last two Super Bowl champions.
“We’re going to be hitting it hard this fall,” said Chandler Gebhart, a bartender at Hunter Bar, located at the corner of Galena Street and Cooper Avenue below retailer Kemo Sabe.
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“We’re really trying to bridge the gap for all of those people who used to go to Cooper Street,” Gebhart said. “As soon as people walk in they’re gonna realize we’ve got the shuffleboard and pool tables from there. But more than anything, the first game has Green Bay, and Cooper Street Pier was always a Green Bay bar. I think Green Bay Packers fans deserve to know that we’re trying to pull off the Cooper Street vibe.”
Hunter Bar will put its large projection screen in the courtyard for tonight’s game. Inside, five other TV sets will be on for football fans’ viewing pleasure.
“A lot of other places in town have football but we’re just trying to bridge the gap between Cooper Street Pier, the Green Bay Packers fans, cheap beer and good food,” Gebhart said. Also, many former Cooper Street employees are working at the Hunter Bar, he said.
Thursday’s game will be broadcast nationally on NBC. Hunter Bar owner Gonzo Mirich said he’s trying to subscribe to Direct TV’s NFL Sunday Ticket so that his establishment will be able to show any game that customers want to see. He still has to submit the proper documentation concerning his bar’s capacity and other details before the order will be secured.
“He’ll have it done by Sunday, but if not, I’ll strangle him,” Gebhart joked.
The Red Onion restaurant in the Cooper Avenue pedestrian mall also is beefing up its football-watching atmosphere. General manager Brad Smith said he’s ordered an extension to the historic bar that will increase the number of people who can sit and watch games in the front half of the 120-year-old eatery and nightspot.
The Red Onion already has the Sunday Ticket. Smith pointed out that the bar has six large TV monitors plus a 120-inch projection screen for the premier Sunday match-ups. For Monday Night Football games, he’s planning to have an all-you-can-eat nacho bar near the front window.
Of course, football and alcohol go hand-in-hand. “We’ll have shot specials for every score: touchdowns and field goals,” Smith said. He’s also expanding his lineup of beers on tap from six to 10, and plans various drink specials for NFL games only.
Zane’s Tavern (formerly McStorlies), which opened at 308 S. Hunter St. in Aspen in the fall of 2006, has been a hit with football fans for the past few years. Eddie Zane said he’s got the Sunday Ticket as well, and plans to keep the crowds entertained with emphasis on the basics: football, food and beer. The establishment has six TVs strategically placed around the bar and near raised tables within a basement atmosphere.
“Sundays during football season are always a good day for us,” Zane said. “This year we’re adding some brunch-type menu items, some huevos rancheros and chicken-fried steak, steak and eggs, stuff like that.”
Zane is planning Philly cheese steak sliders and additional drink specials for Monday night games: “Our specials will evolve as the season goes on,” he said.
“We’re all about the football,” Zane said. “The beer is cold, the Bloody Marys are good, and the food is awesome. It’s a great place to watch a game. It’s not real big, but everybody gets their own TV, we turn the sound up on each TV and we make everybody happy.”
Of course, there are numerous other spots in Aspen to catch the contests. Hickory House, La Cantina, Little Annie’s and the Hotel Jerome’s J-Bar are just a few of the many spots that have a devoted following of locals and visitors for NFL and college games alike.
Paul Dioguardi, owner of Hickory House, said the NFL season will kick off in a big way for Thursday’s Saints-Packers match-up with 35-cent wings and 50-cent draft beers.
Hickory House is often packed for Monday-night games, he said, with KSPN doing promotional giveaways and draft beer and sliders on special. The restaurant, which has three TVs and a projection screen, doesn’t cater to fans of any one team.
Dioguardi said besides fans of the Denver Broncos, those who love the Patriots, Packers, Saints and Colts are well represented at his establishment on Sundays and Mondays, as well as during the occasional Thursday games.