Bootsy Bellows

A Pitkin County Public Health Department notice of closure on the door of Bootsy Bellows, a downtown nightclub that was found in violation of the local COVID-19 restrictions for Friday night/early Saturday morning operations last week.

Bootsy Bellows proprietor Andrew Sandler will not face any fines or jail time after Aspen police discovered what officers described as a fully operating business just before 1 a.m. Saturday last week, against local and state public health mandates.

However, the city’s local licensing authority has scheduled a show cause hearing Sept. 2, during which time Sandler will presumably make his case as to why he should be able to keep his business’ liquor license.

“There will be a hearing on Sept. 2 to consider revocation or other [penalties] for violations that were part of the county’s orders,” City Attorney Jim True said Friday.

As for additional repercussions from the county, Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock suggested that the current closure order, issued Saturday after Aspen police ceased operations, will remain in place.

“Basically, right now, we have the business closed on a 30-day basis. We’re going to hold with that action at this point,” he said. “Our goal is to protect public health. The business being closed and not engaging in activities that put public health at risk meets that goal.”

In addition to the statewide mandate banning alcohol sales after 10 p.m., the city of Aspen passed an ordinance implementing a midnight curfew for restaurant operations. At about 12:55 a.m. Saturday, Aspen police officers noticed people exiting the nightclub — which, under the public health restrictions, should not have been open at all, Aspen Police Assistant Chief Bill Linn noted Sunday.

“Officers walked in [and] found the bar open,” he said. “Bartender behind the bar, drinks being served, a cocktail waitress serving between 75 and 100 people, DJ music, disco lights. Not a mask in sight. Just looked like another Friday night.”

While Sandler did not return a phone call requesting comment Sunday to the Aspen Daily News, he did explain to the Aspen Times that despite appearances, his nightclub was never in fact open.

“It’s my fault; I don’t know how it happened. It absolutely looked like we were open even though we weren’t,” the Times quotes Sandler as saying. “About 30 people descended on the back door because it wasn’t locked and they had their own liquor with them. We were closed but the back door was unlocked.”

He’ll have the opportunity to tell that to local authorities directly during the Sept. 2 show cause hearing, though Peacock said Friday that he had not been in contact with the county since the closure order was issued.

“We actually haven’t had any additional contact from the owner that I’m aware of, other than the comments in the paper,” he said. “Obviously, we would need to see significant evidence to support those claims to take them as credible.”

Although several members of the county health board expressed their support during a Thursday meeting for increasing enforcement of the orders and, specifically, to take additional punitive measures against Sandler, Aspen Mayor Torre — who sits on the board of health — did not weigh in.

That’s because the city council may ultimately have to act in a quasi-judicial capacity, should the issue continue to escalate.

“Council may be involved in quasi-judicial hearing on that later. We’re not being consulted about case facts because we might need to be talked to later on,” he said Friday. “Right now, we’re staying at the arm’s length that we need to ensure a fair process, if it comes to that.”

Megan Tackett is a reporter for the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at megan@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @MeganTackett10.