The price of an Aspen bomb scare
ASPEN Jim Blannings plan to bomb downtown Aspen may have been foiled, but the town still paid a price. A hefty price.By one Aspen police officials estimate, the New Years Eve bomb scare that closed the towns commercial core probably cost local law enforcement between $150,000 and $200,000. The loss to Aspen businesses was far greater, likely in the millions of dollars. Gary Plumley, of the Grape & Grain liquor store on Hopkins Avenue, estimated that he lost roughly 60 percent of his anticipated sales for New Years Eve because he closed at about 4 p.m. and did not reopen until the following day.The Crystal Palace Grille on Hopkins Avenue was prepping food for an invitation-only party for more than 200 people when the restaurant received a reverse-911 emergency call from police. You had a $60,000 dinner planned last night, said restaurant owner Linden Nelson, in a discussion with his executive chef.Linden hoped the evacuation would be temporary and the party could be salvaged. But that was not to be.A 16-block radius remained closed until 5 a.m.; the towns fireworks shows were canceled (but rescheduled for the following night). In other words, the night was a wash for a majority of businesses and those who work there.Samantha Cordts-Pearce, owner of both LuLu Wilson and the Wild Fig, told a reporter: Between the two restaurants, Id say [the losses are] $40,000 to $50,000.At Bentleys, where many locals were expected to ring in the new year, manager Keith Hatanaka paused in the rush of business on New Years Day to declare, Yes, I was inconvenienced, and yes, we lost huge.Hatanaka declined to give specifics, but said it is typically one of the biggest nights of the year and estimated that he lost between half to three-quarters of the revenues he had been hoping for.At Asie on Main Street, the staff prepared to reopen for lunch and dinner New Years Day amid streamers dangling from helium balloons that still clung to the ceiling. The restaurant planned to leave the decorations up, but its receipts will be down, said co-owner Young Yang.The restaurant was forced to close its doors before 6 p.m. on New Years Eve, ushering a few diners out with their dinners packed in to-go boxes. Those customers were also given a discount on their dinner bills, Yang said.The bulk of the evenings business some 150 dinner reservations and a couple of thousand dollars worth of takeout orders was lost, he said. The lost revenue will probably equal about 15 percent of Asies revenues for the winter season, Yang said.Thats a lot of money for us, he said.But while much was lost at the hands of Jim Blanning, nobody was hurt. And for that, everyone is grateful.You know something, if the bomb had really blown up, the lives are more important than the money, said Alexandra Noronha, manager at the Cantina, which had planned a large New Years Eve celebration.Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland agreed: It is unfortunate that this event disrupted peoples celebrations and inflicted financial harm in an already difficult year for business owners, visitors and employees who need the work and, in many cases, the tip income, she said in a prepared statement. However, given the threat to public safety, I believe we did the right thing in closing down part of downtown and I am glad that no one was hurt.
Aspen Times writer Janet Urquhart contributed to this report.
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