woody creek tavern

A few people have been hanging out in front of the Woody Creek Tavern in recent weeks, despite the longtime eatery being closed. 

When the Woody Creek Tavern reopens in the next couple of weeks, customers, as always, won’t need a reservation in order to grab a drink or bite to eat at the famed watering hole — at least not for lunch.

Local restaurateurs Craig and Samantha Cordts-Pearce, who purchased the 40-year-old Woody Creek Tavern in December, have requested a temporary expansion to accommodate social distancing due to continued COVID-19 concerns.

The temporary expansion would not increase the restaurant’s maximum allotment of 49 seats on its patio and 67 seats indoors.  

And, while the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners was supportive of the restaurant’s temporary expansion request, they also wondered if the new owners had any appetite for implementing a reservation system to curb the number of cyclists, pedestrians and vehicles in the area at any given time.

“There’s been no reservations for 40 years in the restaurant,” Samantha Cordts-Pearce said during Tuesday’s BOCC work session. “I think that there would be a lot of pushback from town if there were reservations put in at lunch time. We have talked about experimenting with a [reservation] system at dinner. But, I don’t know if it’s feasible at lunch.” 

Cordts-Pearce said despite the tavern being closed currently, cyclists still showed up in droves to the historic restaurant along Upper River Road looking for a drink and bite to eat.

Commissioner Greg Poschman, who supported Woody Creek Tavern’s temporary seating expansion request, thought there could be merit to a reservation system and did not think the idea should be disregarded simply because it hadn’t been done before.

“With all due respect, the argument you just made is the same argument the Pine Creek Cookhouse or Cloud Nine or any other restaurant that has a lot of congestion and traffic would have made. …‘This has never been done before, we don’t need to do this,'” Poschman said of a hypothetical reservation system at Woody Creek Tavern. “I’m not convinced that that’s the solution but ... it’s your call.”

Ultimately, the board did not tie any conditions — like a reservation system — to its support of the tavern's temporary seating expansion, which will remain intact for the remainder of 2021. It isn’t immediately clear what — if any — permanent changes Samantha and Craig Cordts-Pearce may propose for the Woody Creek Tavern’s seating area in the future.

In an interview following Monday’s work session, the Aspen restaurateurs said they hoped to open the Woody Creek Tavern “in the next couple of weeks” but declined to provide a specific date. Samantha Cordts-Pearce said there had been delays with acquiring sheetrock, stainless steel and other equipment necessary for reopening.

Bill Dinsmoor, who serves as moderator of the Woody Creek Caucus, in his written comments to Pitkin County staff, said he wanted the tavern’s new owners to succeed “but not at the expense of the quality of life of our residents.” Dinsmoor said people wandered “all over the neighborhood with their drinks in hand,” oblivious to cars, trucks and bicycles.

“The current owner/operator will have to demonstrate to the residents of the Woody Creek Plaza and the Woody Creek Caucus that [they] will be able to control [their] service area before any expansion could be considered,” Dinsmoor stated. “The residents have had to live with an out of control situation at the Tavern for far too long.”

However, not everyone shared Dinsmoor’s sentiments during Monday’s work session. Woody Creek resident Peg O’Brien commended Samantha and Craig Cordts-Pearce for initiating conversions with the neighbors and listening to their concerns. O’Brien said she was more concerned about cyclists speeding through the area as opposed to the tavern’s customers.

“The tavern is the gem of Woody Creek, the anchor of our village and the most important commercial customer of our Woody Creek Metro District, which takes care of our water … sewer and roads,” O’Brien said. “The new owners have proven themselves as great neighbors over and over again, showing nothing but respect, sensitivity and support to all concerns and projects brought to their attention by the neighbors.”

Matthew Bennett is a reporter for the Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at: matthew@aspendailynews.com