Little Annie’s Eating House will have a new lease on life if the building’s owners have their way.
With the 41-year restaurant closed because of more than $57,000 owed to the state and city in sales taxes, Andy and Nikos Hecht, the father-and-son principles of the landlord entity called Aspen Core Ventures, said Friday that they will bid on Little Annie’s property that will be up for auction on Tuesday.
The auction is aimed at selling enough tables, chairs, liquor and other restaurant accouterments to allow the Colorado Department of Revenue to recoup the $44,551 in taxes it says is owed.
If the Hechts make the successful bid — which is no guarantee because of how the state operates auctions — they said they plan to inject some $200,000 into a new, employee-run company to operate the venerable eatery until April 1.
“This doesn’t feel right, letting Little Annie’s go down in disgrace,” Nikos Hecht said.
Both Hechts said Little Annie’s is more than a restaurant, calling it a town “legacy” with many personal stories. Besides the restaurant space, Aspen Core Ventures also owns the Benton building adjacent to Little Annie’s and is developing a mixed-use project next door to that.
By Friday afternoon, Little Annie’s general manager, Rohn Fleming, said he had already called managers and staff to give them the news. He said he was ecstatic over the Hechts’ offer.
“I’ve talked to a lot of them,” Fleming said of staff. “I told them to get ready to get back to work, to get off their butts.”
Still, he and the Hechts acknowledged that hurdles remain. Foremost is Tuesday’s auction. Andy Hecht said it will involve a representative of Aspen Core Ventures making a “bulk” bid for everything that is up for sale.
As mandated by the state, after that bid the auction company will then accept bids for individual items in Little Annie’s. The revenue department will accept whichever total is higher, Nikos Hecht said.
“We have to win, but we don’t know how much that will take,” Nikos Hecht said of the optimal bid.
“We have to figure out what that number is,” Andy Hecht added.
Another potential obstacle to reopening is the city of Aspen, which says it is owed $12,875 in sales tax.
Nikos Hecht said he hopes that an arrangement can be reached with the city regarding the liquor license — no one from Little Annie’s ownership showed up in Aspen’s municipal court Wednesday to answer the tax bill, and the matter was continued for a week.
In order to serve alcohol, the license will have to be transferred to the new company running the eatery. Fleming said the company, which as of Friday had no name, would hold the liquor license.
What’s unclear, the parties said, is whether the city will allow the license to be transferred without the sales tax being paid.
The Hechts said it will be up to the new LLC to hash out the city’s tax claim.
“We’re hopeful that the city would want Little Annie’s to reopen,” Andy Hecht said.
Fleming said his goal is to open as soon as possible. He declined comment on whether he would be in charge of the new company, saying such aspects remained in flux Friday.
“Mr. and Mr. Hecht were very anxious to get this done,” he said, adding that they were very supportive. “The thought was, the city needs Little Annie’s, and it was decided that we should go out with a bang rather than a whimper.”
When it comes to operating Little Annie’s under new ownership, Fleming said he “absolutely” hopes to be considered for the role. An interior remodel, as well as the addition of an outdoor rooftop deck, planned this winter, is expected to close Little Annie’s this spring. The Hechts said they want to reopen it with an operator who continues the Little Annie’s atmosphere.
But, if its current iteration goes away, expect a blow-out shindig, the Hechts said.
“There should be a party that goes on for several days,” Andy Hecht said.