The Little Nell hotel faces the loss of its liquor license because it has been cited twice since February for selling alcohol to underage people working for the Colorado Department of Revenue.
Employees with the five-star hotel, owned by the Aspen Skiing Co., were caught by the revenue department’s liquor enforcement division on Feb. 7 and June 27, according to state records.
The SkiCo paid a $5,000 fine after the February infraction as part of a stipulation with the revenue department. The agreement allowed the business to avoid a four-day suspension in May of its license.
On Feb. 7, an employee at Element 47, the Nell’s bar and restaurant, served a glass of wine to a 19-year-old who was working for the enforcement division, says the agreement between the state and the SkiCo.
That resulted in an 11-day suspension of the liquor license, with the company paying the fine in lieu of four days of the punishment. The other seven days of the suspension were “held in abeyance” for a period of one year pending no further violations of the Colorado Liquor Code.
But the enforcement division returned June 27 to recheck the Nell and three other businesses that also were cited in February: Boogie’s Diner, the Wine Shop and the Aspen Brewing Co., said Kathryn Koch, Aspen city clerk.
Boogie’s and the brew pub passed the June inspection, while the wine business had since closed, Koch said. The Nell was caught again by an under-21 employee; details of that operation were not available Friday.
An employee with the state liquor and tobacco enforcement division’s Grand Junction office emailed Koch the follow-up results on July 1. She said she will present the Nell’s case to the city’s liquor licensing authority board on Aug. 6. The hotel’s license is up for renewal Aug. 10.
The revenue department has not yet told the SkiCo how the recent violation will affect the hotel’s license given that it already was on probation, said Sabato Sagaria, the Nell’s food and beverage director.
The state is negotiating a second stipulation with the SkiCo that involves the “actual suspension of the license” because the second violation occurred less than two years after the first one, said Daria Serna, revenue department spokeswoman.
When the license will be suspended is unclear. Serna said the hotel can request a hearing with the revenue department; she declined further comment because the matter remains under investigation.
Sagaria said the Nell is taking the infractions seriously. A bar and restaurant manager, on the day after the late-June violation, became certified as a TIPS trainer, he said. The alcohol-serving program, which stands for Training for Intervention Procedures, focuses on the responsible service, sale and consumption of alcohol, according to its website.
The employee will lead all of the hotel’s trainings, and there is continuing education for staff and other managers, Sagaria said.