The Tavern sells … (or as the rumor mill churns) | AspenTimes.com
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The Tavern sells … (or as the rumor mill churns)

While Aspen was filled with the sounds of political blither during April, the hills that surround Woody Creek were filled with rumors. No, it was not just the hills, but all of our valleys, gullies, meadows, pastures, woods, bluffs, driveways, marshes and even a bog or two were filled with the entertaining sounds of rumors.The rumors were all related to the alleged fact that the Woody Creek Tavern had been sold, a story that created a brief moment of hysteria for many Tavern regulars. In the end, we learned that Kevin Willson and Laura Wren, co-owners of Aspen’s Wienerstube restaurant and an outlet in Basalt, had made an offer but nothing has yet been finalized, at least not by May 4.Journalists tend to have a love-hate relationship with rumors. They are attracted to them as they have the potential to lead to great stories; they dislike them because they can be impossible to track down, a situation that may result in a great deal of wasted time and effort and no story. Once the initial shock wore off, the Tavern regulars and employees embraced the original rumor and then quickly began embellishing it with new rumors. Little less could have been expected from the Tavern, a place well-known for quirky activity. First in line in that rumor mill was a story that Johnny Depp, the movie star who was a close friend of the late Hunter S. Thompson, a longtime Tavern regular, might buy the Tavern. In a flash after the Depp rumor began circulating, a collection jar was placed on the bar asking customers to donate in order to “Help Johnny Depp buy the Tavern for the Tavern Employees.” Considering that Depp is probably a multimillionaire, the collection jar seemed somewhat outrageous and yet money quickly began to accumulate in the jar. A Tavern employee suggested the money could be used for a local’s bowling party if Depp didn’t come through.The next wild rumor was that the Tavern might be reincarnated as the Mustang Ranch, that famous Nevada brothel that was closed a number of years ago. According to Diane Redfern, a Tavern waitress, some guys in the bar were talking about what the Tavern could become if it were sold and one of them suggested it could become the next Mustang Ranch. That may be a rather wild idea, but there is no question that a certain number of patrons would probably applaud such a change. Diane said she thought it was just “wishful thinking” on the part of her male customers.Another rather bizarre rumor was that the Vatican and the Catholic Church were interested. Considering all the lawsuits the Catholics have had to face in recent years as a result of pedophilia among Catholic priests, it is possible they are looking for additional income, and the Tavern might prove to be such a source. It would be kind of neat to have the pope, in one of his outlandish pope outfits, acting as the Tavern host. It certainly would be a change of pace from our current hosts, and I’m thinking specifically of Shep Harris, the co-owner, who has a penchant for Hawaiian shirts. It would be a nice contrast having the pope one night and Shep the next.The most frightening of all the rumors was the one that suggested that George W., our compassionate-warrior president, was interested in the Tavern. The guy is going to be out of work soon, so maybe his interest is not all that improbable. The main problem for him would be the fact that he would have to bring Karl Rove and Dick Cheney along to tell him what to do and that might prove to be far too expensive. On the positive side is that fact that there are endless biking trails in our valley, so with any luck we wouldn’t see much of George W.The Tavern staff and many regulars were having some fun spreading and creating rumors; however, down deep that place was beginning to fill with a touch of melancholy. The Tavern has existed for almost 27 years, serving Woody Creatures and folks from all over the world. As with all good taverns, it became a second home to many of us who were there on opening day and to many of the staff who have spent years serving and entertaining guests. Mary Harris was part of the original ownership, but after a couple of years the Tavern was sold and we lost her for a few years. But she returned in time with her new husband, Shep, and eventually they became the owners. She is something of a “mom” to many in the Tavern, concerned about their welfare and offering to assist whenever she can. It won’t be easy going into the Tavern and not be greeted by the always-smiling Mary. Over the years, we (regulars) came to know the waitresses intimately, in some case perhaps too intimately, but we were always greeted as if we were actually welcome. Tavern waitresses are, without question, a special lot. And we made new friends in the confines of that aging building, and, on occasion, an enemy or two. For many of us, the Tavern is family in the truest sense, and it is rather sad to think that it will change, no matter how minor the changes may be. But I suspect this is getting a tad too maudlin. That thought crossed my mind when I realized that if the Tavern were sold, I might even miss seeing Shep on a regular basis. Oh well, I probably could get over that! This is the 340th article in a two-part series devoted to the community of Woody Creek, a place with a grand tradition of accepting and passing on spurious information.


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