Woody Creek Tavern expanded seating approved again until end of year | AspenTimes.com

Woody Creek Tavern expanded seating approved again until end of year

Commissioners give OK for patio; reopening date still not set

Local restaurateurs Samantha and Craig Cordts-Pearce stand outside their newest acquisition in Woody Creek on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Temporary expanded seating on the Woody Creek Tavern’s patio will be allowed through the end of 2021.

Pitkin County commissioners approved the request by the Tavern’s new owners at their regular weekly work session Tuesday, while also directing county staff to work with the community and look into ways to slow down traffic in front of the popular, at-times crowded bar and restaurant.

“I would totally be in favor of approving the extension of the expansion area,” Commissioner Francie Jacober said.

The other three commissioners at the meeting — Commissioner Patti Clapper wasn’t present — also recommended approval of the temporary expanded patio seating, though they made other suggestions on how to ease congestion problems that plague the Tavern.

Commissioner Greg Poschman asked owners Samantha and Craig Cordts-Pearce to implement a reservation system, which he said could help alleviate the crowds of bicyclists who flock to the Tavern during the day for lunch and mill around Upper River Road waiting for a table.

Commissioner Steve Child proposed moving the road over “half a lane” to create more space in front of the Tavern, while Board Chairwoman Kelly McNicholas Kury directed county staff to study short-term “traffic calming” measures to make the area safer.

The Cordts-Pearces — who bought the Tavern in December and also own four other Aspen restaurants — initially asked the county to permanently approve the expanded seating, which was first allowed because of COVID-19 pandemic safety concerns. County planning staff, however, has determined that the path to permanence requires a separate application and review process, according to a memo to commissioners from Suzanne Wolff, the county’s community development assistant director.

On Tuesday, the couple resubmitted the request for another temporary approval of the expanded submission because the pandemic is not yet over, said Luke Van Arsdale, an Aspen attorney representing the Cordts-Pearces. The increased social distancing allowed by the expanded seating remains necessary for the safety of the restaurant’s guests, he said.

Van Arsdale also said the owners plan to submit an application to make the expanded seating permanent but also want to address the issues of congestion raised by members of the Woody Creek Caucus.

“It is a traffic bottleneck,” he said. “But today is to provide a safe environment for the Tavern visitors at the end of the pandemic.”

Bill Dinsmoor, Woody Creek Caucus moderator, said he was OK with the temporary approval through the end of the year.

Commissioners attached no conditions to the approval, though McNicholas Kury suggested the Tavern owners experiment with a reservation system and “see if it works for further discussion.”

Samantha Cordts-Pearce said she didn’t think a reservation system would work during lunch, though it might be possible for dinner.

“Reservations won’t deter anyone from coming down in the daytime,” she said. “There would be a lot of pushback from town if there were reservations at lunch.”

Gus Fillis, a Tavern neighbor who referred to the bar as his “second living room,” also pointed out that a reservation system could negatively impact regulars who likely wouldn’t be inclined to make reservations at their neighborhood watering hole.

With the commissioners’ approval Tuesday, the Cordts-Pearces will now have to submit a request to the Colorado Liquor Enforcement Division to be able to serve alcohol in the expanded seating areas, according to Wolff’s memo. That action also will require separate approval by county commissioners, the memo states.

Samantha Cordts-Pearce said after the meeting she didn’t think approval from the state was necessary, though she said she needed to research the issue. Jeanette Jones, clerk to the board of commissioners, also said she wasn’t sure if state approval was necessary.

A reopening date for the Woody Creek Tavern has not yet been determined, Samantha Cordts-Pearce said.

“We’ll open the doors as soon as we can,” she said.

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