Affordable bar and restaurant coming soon to Cooper Street

by Carolyn Sackariason, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

As contractors finish work in the basement of the redeveloped Cooper Street Pier building, its owners are preparing to find a tenant that, by city law, will be an affordable bar and restaurant.

Per a settlement agreement that resulted from a lawsuit levied against the city of Aspen by the developers, the building’s owners must within six months of the space getting a certificate of occupancy have a “mid-priced” restaurant, bar or brewery in the downstairs space.

A representative of JS Cooper Street LLC, which is comprised of principals Andrew Hecht, his son Nikos Hecht, Ron Garfield and Joshua Saslove, said efforts are currently being made to lease the space.

Lex Tarumianz, president of Pyramid Property Advisors, which manages the building, said he is currently putting together marketing materials for the 1,800-square-foot space. Bob Langley, a commercial real estate broker, will be the listing agent.

“It’s getting there,” Tarumianz said of the space’s readiness. Construction workers on site said Friday that they expect to be done in a month.

Brunello Cucinelli, an Italian clothier, will be the first tenant in the building located at 508 E. Cooper Ave. (There is no “Cooper Street” on Aspen maps, but the term is part of local lexicon thanks to a bar in the space that took the name). The high-end retailer has leased the street-level space where Cooper Street Pier and Bad Billy’s once existed. It’s expected that the retail store will be open by Christmas.

When a bar and restaurant will open underneath the store remains to be seen, but according to the covenants placed upon the space, the city has the option of finding its own tenant if the building’s owners fail to find one within six months.

The placement of a deed-restriction on a restaurant space in a privately-owned building was an unprecedented move by the city government in 2008.

 Chris Council/Aspen Daily News
The renovated Cooper Street Pier building.

It was a compromise reached between the developers — which at the time included seven LLCs — and the city, in a lawsuit the developers brought after council initially denied the building project. In exchange for the restaurant concession, City Council allowed the owners to subdivide the property and redevelop it into a mixed-use building. The settlement included an increase in the allowed square footage for the residential portion of the new building.

In the original development application, a 2,008-square-foot free-market condo would have taken up the third and fourth floors. But under the settlement, the conversion of deck space netted a total of 4,527 square feet for the condo on those floors. Typically, downtown condos are capped at 2,500 square feet.

City officials and lawyers at Garfield & Hecht PC were in settlement discussions for about eight months. The building owners filed the lawsuit in 2007 after council denied their application to subdivide the property.

According to the settlement, the landlords must make a reasonable attempt to fill the basement space with an eatery or bar that will pay rent that is no greater than 75 percent of the free-market rate of a similar space in downtown Aspen, and not greater than $50 per square foot for the first year.

“They have to make a good-faith effort,” said Chris Bendon, the city’s community development director who was involved in the negotiations.

Reasonable efforts mean circulating lease terms and information to local commercial real estate brokers and advertising in a local newspaper when the property is vacant. If the space is empty for more than six months, the city has the right to propose tenants, according to the settlement.

The city would find a tenant through its standard request for proposals process, said City Attorney Jim True.

Another stipulation in the four-page declaration of covenants is that the food prices charged by the business have to be within the third lowest of all restaurants in town. The price calculation, which will be determined by city officials, includes sit-down restaurants and excludes fast-food restaurants. The tenant’s menu would be measured separately for lunch and dinner, and price calculations would exclude alcohol, according to the covenants.