After nearly a quarter-century of cultivating and serving the community, Jimmy’s An American Restaurant and Bar will close for good this fall, owner Jimmy Yeager announced Sunday.
Alongside his business partner, Jessica Lischka, Yeager sold his eponymous Aspen institution last week to the Austin, Texas-based hospitality group that owns Clark’s Oyster Bar in town. With a slew of parties and festivities planned throughout the summer to commemorate the restaurant’s tenure, Jimmy’s last day will be Sept. 18.
Since opening in June of 1997, Yeager emphasized how being of service to and ingrained within the Aspen community has remained a focal point of his namesake establishment — whether this means hosting youth sport teams, offering an affordable bar menu with locals in mind or acting as a voice for the restaurant industry throughout the pandemic.
“We have so much gratitude for being part of this community for as long as we have,” Yeager said, “and we are incredibly proud of the business and family we have built over the years.”
The notion of “family” is also at the heart of Jimmy’s, as exemplified by the contingent of employees who’ve worked at the restaurant for most of its run.
“The best memories I have are those involving our employees,” Yeager said. “I’ll miss them the most.”
Then of course there are the loyal patrons who have also been with Jimmy’s since the beginning — like Aspen resident Tracy Wynn, who proudly bears the title as the restaurant’s “most swiped card” — as in, accounting records reveal he is the patron who visited the most and has the credit card swipes to prove it.
“I felt pretty important when Jimmy told me that,” Wynn quipped.
Wynn called Jimmy’s “his neighborhood bar” — which is exactly what Yeager envisioned and sought to offer throughout the restaurant’s tenure.
But after 24 years, Jimmy’s received “the right offer at the right time,” said Yeager, who is 60.
Lischka, who serves as Jimmy's longtime general manager as well as a partner in the business, echoed that sentiment.
“We’re just ready. There has to be an end point; we can’t do this forever and this felt like the right time, and we feel very good about the deal that we made,” Lischka said. While interested buyers have approached Jimmy’s for years, she said the new ownership group “was the first time we were presented with an offer that we felt matched our worth.”
She reiterated that the sale is not a casualty of COVID-19 or a story of a struggling business — rather, she and Yeager have discussed what their end game would look like for the past five years.
“We really prioritize our lives and our lifestyles over our business, and the hospitality industry requires so much of people. It’s just really difficult mentally, and what we all went through in the last 18 months and the hours, people and all of that — you just get to a point [of asking yourself] when you feel like you’ve accomplished what you wanted to accomplish?” Lischka reflected Sunday. “And we feel we’ve done that, and we feel we’ve had an amazing run and we are going to be really sad to see it go, but it’s the right time.”
While the two look forward to entering their respective next chapters, Lischka said, “obviously, there is an understandable amount of sadness” stemming from the relationships created and milestones celebrated at Jimmy’s over the past 24 years.
As Yeager noted in an announcement Sunday, “We have been here for birthdays, anniversaries, engagements, lost jobs, break ups, going-away parties and average Tuesday night dinners. And we have created an amazing family of guests and employees along the way.”
He continued: “People have met, fallen in love, been married (and divorced!) here. Kids have grown up to work with us. Some of our favorite guests have passed on. We will always cherish the history of what we have created with you all.”
Lischka, in fact, met her partner — Jimmy’s bar manager of 16 years, Chris Kelner — at the restaurant, where she started as a hostess in 2006 and worked her way up.
To this day, Jimmy’s promotes a strong culture of promoting from within, Lischka said, adding that she and Yeager are committed to helping staff through the transition.
In the interim, she said, “the most important thing is to make every night count.
“We want to savor what we love about this business and our wonderful guests for the remainder of our time. It’s impossible to quantify the memories and the impact our place has had on so many guests and employees.”
The new ownership group, McGuire Moorman Lambert Hospitality, acquired the historic Mountain Chalet Aspen, along with the New Orleans-based Kupperman Companies, in March for $68 million.
MML Hospitality, which will assume Jimmy’s lease on Oct. 1, is planning a “light renovation” of the space and to reopen as a Mexican concept featuring fresh ceviche, fajitas and margaritas early next year, according to Yeager’s announcement.
Yeager and Lischka are asking community members to send any memories or photos to share on social media to email@example.com. Commemorative events currently on the books include the return of Jimmy’s “Mid-Summer Costume Party” on Aug. 13, “Salsa Night” on Aug. 21 and “Throwback Menus” Sept. 15 to 18.
“There’s so much history ... what we really want is to put at the forefront all of those memories and all of the things that happened in everyone's lives at Jimmy’s,” Lischka said. “We feel we were really successful at [cultivating community], and now that it’s time for it to end, that’s part of what makes it very emotional — because of what we built. There’s going to be a big hole in the Aspen community.”