Trial-and-error process for county-run eatery under way |

Trial-and-error process for county-run eatery under way

Jeremy Heiman

Pitkin County is now in the restaurant business, but you’re not likely to see commissioners Dorothea Farris and Mick Ireland serving up the grub.

The county has been running the restaurant at the Aspen Airport since the end of September, when the previous leaseholder, Creative Croissants, closed. When the county put the space up for bid in October, no prospective operators submitted proposals.

So the county undertook the management of the restaurant. A manager and an assistant manager were hired, under the supervision of Airport Contract Administrator Edna Adeh.

“It’s not something we’d choose to do,” said County Commissioner Dorothea Farris. “But we believe there needs to be a restaurant there.” Given the option of closing it or running it temporarily, the commissioners elected to run the place, she said.

The restaurant, located in the middle of the terminal next to the gift shop, will be called “Caf de l’Air.” The airport administration announced the winning name Tuesday after a contest judged by airport employees and administration.

Adeh said this is the first time, to her knowledge, that the county has operated this or any other restaurant. She acknowledged the operation will be subject to some trial and error.

“We’ll do one thing, and then if that doesn’t work, we’ll do something else,” she said.

The present menu was created by a hired restaurant consultant, but Adeh said it will be changed from time to time so frequent fliers and other regulars won’t get bored.

The operation hasn’t been profitable in the short months the county has been in charge, but it’s been off-season. Performance after mid-December will be much more indicative of what’s in store, Adeh said.

Farris said the labor shortage in the Aspen area may explain the lack of bidders.

“I think it’s getting much more difficult to get capable, qualified help to operate a place there,” she said.

She said the commissioners didn’t spend much time discussing whether to go into the restaurant business. The airport needs to have a place where travelers can sit down and get coffee or food, she said.

“Not having a restaurant wasn’t an option,” she said.

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