What’s next for Liquid Sky, Junk spaces at Snowmass?
Snowmass Village correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
SNOWMASS VILLAGE – The financial challenges faced by Junk and Liquid Sky owner Scott DeGraff hardly came as a surprise to people familiar with operations of the now-shuttered businesses in the heart of Base Village at Snowmass.
The restaurant and bar were placed in receivership last week and Related WestPac (as Base Village Owner LLC) filed an eviction action against DeGraff in 9th Judicial District Court.
“I think conceptually it perhaps didn’t fit the market,” said Jeffrey Klein, who operates The Office on the Snowmass Village Mall and hopes to debut the Asian-inspired Buchi in the base area by December. Before opening last year, DeGraff introduced the concept of a club that was more edgy, more Las Vegas in style than anything Snowmass had ever seen. The concept seemed to catch fire with those who felt that a velvet ropes-style nightclub might be just what the doctor ordered for a resort that grows quiet after dark.
But the promise of greatness was never fulfilled, certainly in part because of the economy. Yet locals, including two columnists for the town’s weekly newspaper, were frequently critical of the limited hours of operation in the nearly 6,000 square feet of prime space. The establishments closed by 8 p.m. on many evenings – just when local nightlife gets rolling. While the food and beverages received generally good reviews, Junk and Liquid Sky failed to live up to lofty expectations.
Court documents allege DeGraff hasn’t paid rent since the end of last ski season and that he’s behind by more than $175,000 in rent and other fees. In addition, a number of local contractors and subcontractors have filed liens against DeGraff.
DeGraff is expected to appear in court Nov. 17 to answer the summons. He continues to operate the N9NE Steakhouse in downtown Aspen.
The future of the two spots in the heart of Base Village – a base area still under development – is unclear, but some resort officials are expressing optimism that new operators will take over the spaces.
“We’re sad and disappointed to have this prime beachfront location be vacant,” said Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle. The Skico won’t take over operation of the spaces, he added, especially given its success with the operation of Sneaky’s, located across the plaza from the shuttered establishments.
“I don’t foresee us picking up another two spaces,” Hanle said.
Town Manager Russ Forrest is among the local observers who believe the lights will be on in the expansive space this season.
“I’m optimistic there could be new ownership,” Forrest said.
That’s also the opinion of Mike Otte, whose Aspen-based accounting firm, Otte and Cote, is handling the receivership.
“I think there are interested parties. Obviously I think Scott (DeGraff) would like to continue to operate it as well,” Otte added.
On Nov. 6, Otte had the unenviable task of changing the locks on the businesses, in addition to conducting interviews with those involved with the bar and restaurants and “developing data” about the operations. In his role as receiver, Otte also may have a say about who would be a viable new tenant.
“We’re going to do the right and best thing in terms of what the options are. Ideally, we hope the location will be up and running in the very near future,” Otte said. “I haven’t talked to anybody who doesn’t want to see something happening there. It’s just a question of who and what. Exactly the same or something different?”
Because of pending legal action, Base Village Owner LLC isn’t saying much about the situation. But spokesman Steve Alldredge did say, “In general, Related WestPac is very interested in the success of Base Village and having that property open.”
Skico’s Hanle said he wants to make sure the public doesn’t perceive the closures as a problem exclusive to either Snowmass or Base Village.
“I think restaurants are a particularly difficult business right now. We’re happy someone came into Highlands,” he said, referring to the new operator taking over the former ZG Grill in the base plaza at Highlands.
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