Mezzaluna

Mezzaluna’s roof covering, pictured here on Thursday, will remain in place as is while the Aspen restaurant awaits approval of an application to modify its size. 

Most of the pandemic-era temporary structures outside Aspen restaurants and businesses are a thing of the past, but Mezzaluna is still caught in a waiting game over an application to keep and modify its patio covering.

After the city mandated the May 1 deadline for structures to be taken down, city council agreed to allow some businesses — Mezzaluna included — until May 13 to remove the installations before implementing a fine of $500 per day. On Tuesday, the council reluctantly agreed to waive the fine for Mezzaluna while its commercial design review application is pending approval, which will be decided by the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission on June 21.

“I’m feeling confused,” Mezzaluna co-owner Grant “Junior” Sutherland said Wednesday morning.

Sutherland visited the council on Tuesday during the public comment portion of the regular meeting, where he made the request for the fine to be waived. He said the process was confusing and did not make much sense to him, and there are still several steps to go through before the roof can be modified. Sutherland told the council that he hopes to reduce the current roof to 499 square feet and leave it up permanently.

“We had offered to cut it back to 499 feet, but then last night they told me no because we don’t have the demolition permit,” he added.

The current city code bars the current roof from being reduced until Mezzaluna obtains a demolition permit or a building permit unless there is a safety concern, said Community Development Director Phillip Supino.

Council members were concerned about the possibility of the roof remaining in limbo for longer than expected while it goes through the process. Sutherland assured Mayor Torre that it was his intention to complete the project as quickly as possible.

Councilors Ward Hauenstein and John Doyle said they were also concerned about making an exception for one business. Mezzaluna was one of three restaurants to come before council on April 26 to ask for some leniency, and it is the only one of those three to ask for a fee waiver.

“Once we talked about this at the last meeting, whenever it was discussed, we got a response from Jing — very gracious,” Doyle said. “We got a response from Mi Chola — more than gracious. When we got a response from Mezzaluna, it was much less than gracious, and I have a hard time rewarding that behavior. The one thing that is in your favor is that I am against throwing stuff away that’s perfectly good, so I will let this go forward, but I’m not happy about it.”

The roof will remain in place as is until June 21. If the commission approves the application, Mezzaluna will be able to submit a building permit application, which Supino said could take several weeks to get approved. If the commission denies it, the covering will have to come down. In the meantime, Mezzaluna will be required to sign an additional waiver stating that the roof is tied to the pandemic.

Supino told the council that the situation is challenging for the city because of the process, and that he was concerned about hearing similar requests from other businesses. Torre said that replacements of any COVID-related structures will not be permitted.

Sutherland said on Wednesday that despite the confusing and time-consuming process, he was grateful to the city and the council for granting his request, and he is hopeful that the commission will approve the commercial design application next month.

“I’m grateful that they allowed us to keep it up there,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll take it to the next step and see what happens. I’m thankful to the city council.”

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