Thunderbowl Cafe closes at Highlands | AspenTimes.com

Thunderbowl Cafe closes at Highlands

Janet Urquhart

Owners of the Thunderbowl Market and Cafe at Aspen Highlands said they closed the restaurant because they didnt have enough customers to continue operating. (Mark Fox/The Aspen Times)

Aspen Highlands is seeking a new tenant for one of its base-area restaurants after the operators of the Thunderbowl Market and Cafe called it quits.”We just ran out of customers,” said owner Stanley Hoffberger, who also operates Iguana’s at the base of Highlands.Aspen Highlands Village, which has struggled to gain a steady stream of foot traffic outside of the ski season, is a “tough go,” Hoffberger said. But he also blamed The Aspen Times for repeated snide remarks about the base area at Highlands, where the first commercial buildings opened in 2000.

“Every time there is an opportunity to say something negative about it, your paper seems to say it,” Hoffberger said.The Hoffbergers will continue to run Iguana’s, which will reopen for the season in December. They also own Pacifica in downtown Aspen.Durrance Sports vacated the Highlands base area last spring for a spot on the Cooper Avenue mall in downtown Aspen. Owner Dave Durrance, too, cited the lack of summer foot traffic at Aspen Highlands Village as a hurdle.The Aspen Highlands Merchants Association has worked on bolstering special events there to help draw people. A weekly outdoor movie in the summertime has become a popular attraction.

No new tenant is lined up for the former Durrance Sports space, but there are several prospective tenants for the Thunderbowl space, including one who is very interested, said Jeanette Darnauer of Darnauer Group. The firm handles marketing and management for the merchants association.”I think what we’re trying to do at Highlands is figure out what the best uses and the best needs are for that space,” she said, acknowledging the challenges of doing business there during certain hours and seasons.”I think Highlands is still in that mode of discovery. It takes years to figure out the kinks – what works, what doesn’t work there,” Darnauer said.The closing of Thunderbowl potentially limits breakfast options for skiers and snowboarders at the base this winter unless it reopens under a new owner with a breakfast menu. The Thunderbowl was open all day. The Endeavor, an Internet cafe, also serves pastries, and Hoffberger said he is contemplating hot breakfasts at Iguana’s but has made no decision.

The Willow Creek Bistro also operates at Highlands, as the restaurant within the Ritz-Carlton Club.Highlands could well have a spectacular season, given the long-anticipated opening of the Deep Temerity lift, which will serve new expert terrain there this winter, Darnauer noted.The 100s, a Pilates studio, and boot technician Jim Lindsay’s own shop, BOOTech, are coming to the base commercial area this winter. Lindsay had been working out of Four Mountain Sports, Darnauer said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com