David Burke restaurant faces lawsuit, delays


Contractor says unpaid bills from new space go back to January


The opening of a new restaurant from New York-based celebrity chef David Burke has been delayed as it faces a lawsuit from the building’s general contractor claiming $554,000 in unpaid bills.


Centaur Construction of Chicago, which has been working on the “Aspen 1” building, filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Pitkin County District Court, after a lien was recorded last week with the county clerk claiming a debt of $607,000 going back to January.


Burke’s public relations representatives announced last July that the chain of eight high-end restaurants centered in the New York City area would be branching out to Aspen, taking the rooftop space in the new building on the site of the former Gap clothing store on Galena Street and Hopkins Avenue. At the time, press releases said David Burke Kitchen would open in January.


As construction on other retail spaces in the building continues to advance — the clothing store Theory opened this spring in one of the four street-level storefronts — hammers, drills and saws have been quiet in the upstairs space.


Spiro Tsaparas, CEO of Centaur, said his firm stopped work on the David Burke space in January “due to a financial dispute.”


“The parties are working toward resolution,” he said.


A statement issued last week by David Burke Group CEO Stephen Goglia says that, “Construction continues to move ahead on the restaurant, perhaps not at the pace we would like, but we are very excited by how the restaurant is turning out and we are working hard at preparing for an exciting opening in the months to come.”


A follow-up email from David Burke representatives, responding to questions about work stoppage, denied that construction had been dormant since January. The restaurant’s representatives wouldn’t give a projected opening date, and declined comment on the alleged debts.


“We are absolutely committed to opening when the building is completed,” said Sally Spaulding, a representative of the restaurant.


In February, David Burke Group announced that it would be opening its second establishment in the building. The Huckleberry Hall nightclub is set for the basement space. This winter’s announcement said the bar serving light food would open in March.


Centaur’s suit also names the LLC that owns the building and numerous investors in the project as defendants. It seeks a jury trial and claims breach of contract and unjust enrichment, among other wrongs.


An LLC tied to Chicago developer Mark Hunt, who has bought numerous downtown Aspen properties with more under contract, purchased the Gap building in October 2012 for $13.25 million.


When redevelopment plans for the building were first submitted, the intention was to “decommission” space in the basement so it would be unusable for commercial purposes. By doing so, the developers would have avoided paying city mitigation fees for affordable housing and other items, because they would be technically using the same amount of space as the Gap building. The developers changed plans in the months that followed, and have since used “affordable housing credit” certificates purchased from developers who build rent-controlled units around town. By using those certificates, Hunt has made the building’s basement usable commercial space.