Taster’s last day of serving pizza in Aspen is Aug. 31
Taster’s Pizza will be the latest locally owned restaurant to shut down, with a closing date set Aug. 31.
The city of Aspen notified the restaurant’s ownership, on the first of this month, that its days are numbered due to the construction underway on the neighboring civic offices. Taster’s Pizza operates from city-owned property at Rio Grande Place and is located across from the skate park and a quick walk away from the county building and courthouse on East Main Street.
The pizzeria has been operating on a month-to-month lease with the city since 2012 and paying a fraction of the rent — $1,300 a month plus triple net — that downtown retail space commands. It has been in its Aspen location since March 2008. It also has a location in Snowmass Village.
The closing has been expected because of the city’s construction of a 37,500-square-foot building between Rio Grande Place and Galena Plaza. Its completion is anticipated for the spring of 2021, according to Jeff Pendarvis, the city’s interim director of capital assets.
“Honestly, Jeff has been really good about advocating for us,” said Stacy Forster, owner of Taster’s, on Tuesday. “He’s always tried to get us more time.”
For now, there are no plans to find another Aspen location, he said.
Even before the city began talking seriously about building offices on Rio Grande Place, Taster’s knew its tenancy was tenuous because it was in city-own space coveted by the Aspen Art Museum. Aspen voters in May 2009 however, by a margin of nearly 62%, rejected the museum’s ballot question to buy the old youth center building, where Taster’s anchors the bottom level.
In the past couple of years, the city and Taster’s had an informal agreement that though the restaurant was on a month-to-month lease, the city would try to keep it on a season-to-season basis until it was time to go. That’s essentially what’s happening with the upcoming closing date — the last day of business for Taster’s is on the last day of August, also the Saturday before Labor Day, which locals more or less consider the start of fall. Taster’s must vacate the premises by Sept. 10.
“It’s mainly access,” Pendarvis said of the reason for Taster’s exit. “We’re going to have a crane and a bunch of equipment, and we’ll be getting that whole patio (at Taster’s) reworked as part of the project for the restaurant space.” The city plans to keep the space Taster’s is vacating for future restaurant use, Pendarvis said.
Forster said his employees know about the upcoming closure. He currently has a staff of 10 full-time workers, along with two delivery drivers, at the Aspen store. That’s on the low side because of anticipation of the pending closure, Forster said, noting that staff size ranges from 15 to 20 during the busy seasons.
One of those employees, David Lucero, has been a mainstay behind the counter and on the floor at Taster’s since 2014.
“People want something to get that is reliable,” he said of Taster’s. “And it’s easy in and easy out, and they know how much it’s going to cost.”
Lucero, who lives in Aspen, said he’ll figure something out for future employment.
“It is what it is,” he said.
Patrons could order pizza by the slice or a whole one; salads, pastas, sandwiches and other items also are on its menu.
On Tuesday, construction workers, a local family and others were having a noontime meal, as the restaurant staff also was busy preparing 27 pizzas for the Aspen Police Department’s Picnic in the Park community gathering at the skate park.
“The city has been one of our best customers,” Forster said of his landlord.
Another government customer, the Pitkin County Courthouse, also has depended on Taster’s during trials and other courtroom proceedings
“We have relied on Taster’s to feed our juries,” said Ian Roberts, a deputy court clerk.
The combined-courts system is tax-exempt, but Taster’s has been the sole restaurant that wouldn’t charge it sales taxes on its purchases, Roberts said. The proximity between the courthouse and pizza shop also was a plus, he said.
Before Taster’s, the Grill Next Door operated in the space, which also has been home to restaurants serving Indian food and wraps.
Taster’s joins a number of other locally owned Aspen restaurants that have closed in recent years, including Boogie’s Diner, Little Annie’s Eating House, Main Street Bakery, Peach’s, Over Easy and Rustique.
The December 2020 sabotage of three gas lines that put 3,500 households and businesses in Aspen without heat was partly due to a utility provider’s failure to “adequately secure its gas service lines from unauthorized tampering and damage,” according to allegations made in an insurer’s complaint against Black Hills Energy.