The historic Taos Inn | AspenTimes.com

The historic Taos Inn

Paul E. Anna

So I see that the Hotel Jerome is getting closer to the day they renovate. And the Sky Hotel has big plans as well.

No doubt there will be plasma screens, expensive restaurants, shiny porcelain in the commodes and sheets with four-digit thread counts. Renovations like these take time, money and talented designers. But does anyone pay any heed to the soul of the hotel anymore?

This past week I had the great good fortune to spend a night in the historic Taos Inn in Taos, N.M. Like the Jerome it occupies a choice location in the heart of a tourist/ski town. It has a treasured bar, a fine-dining restaurant and is revered by both locals and visitors alike.

On this Monday night in the Adobe Bar, their version of our J-Bar, the small Panasonic above the beer taps was tuned to a football game. But the real action in the packed room took place opposite the Kiva, where it was open-mike night. While cowboys, Indians, hippies, real-estate brokers kids in dreads and tourists looked on, locals got up and sang songs, played drums, recited poetry and just connected with their fellow citizens. It was a soulful gathering that befitted both the town of Taos and the Taos Inn.

It was a scheduled event, but it didn’t have a master of ceremonies or an agenda. It didn’t have a 501c corporation with a cause. Or a sponsor. There was nothing contrived. It was simply a gathering of creative folks who appreciated a fireplace in the corner, surrounded by people who wanted to hear what they had to play or say. Each performance was greeted with applause and each performer was humbled by the warm response their act received.

Where do we go in Aspen for that kind of community connectedness? True, we are a different town than Taos. We have few residents with multi-generational roots. And in fairness the Jerome and Sky cater to a different demographic than the simple, charming and nearly perfect little Taos Inn.

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But still, hotels and bars can be great uniters, places where folks can come together to see and be seen, to hear local gossip, talk about politics, sex and even religion over a beer or margarita. It is this kind of ambiance that makes an epic place, a place that transcends being just a great “space” and becomes soulful.

As the talented people who design hotels and bars and restaurants in far-away places for our town go about their fabulous plans, let’s hope that they take a day or two to put their boots on the ground, so to speak, to take a look around Aspen and see how they can best seat their new visions in our community.

What’s good for our town may just be great for their business.

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