Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Get Arty in Aspen

Courtesy of Billy Farrell/BFAnyc.com

With the completion of the new Aspen Art Museum building this summer, the city known for its luxury winter recreation is on track to become a year-round art hub. 2014 Pritzker Architecture Prize winner designed the new building, featuring a lattice-like façade.

Last week Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang’s Black Lightning piece struck Aspen. It was an explosive art event that set veins of black smoke into the sky, commencing opening celebrations with a bang. On Saturday, August 9th, Cai Guo-Qiang’s new installation Moving Ghost Town opens on the museum’s rooftop. The installation has already garnered criticism from animal rights advocates for its inclusion of three living African Tortoises. The three animals, Big Bertha, Gracie Pink Star, and Whale Wanderer, each have two iPads mounted on their shells, displaying footage of the tortoises roaming through ghost towns near Aspen.

ASPEN ART MUSEUM 2014 Ribbon Cutting, Cai Guo-Qiang Firework, and Shigeru Ban Walkthrough

Courtesy of David X Prutting/BFAnyc.com

Veterinarian Dr. Elizabeth Kremzier ensures that the animals are in good care. “I have worked with the staff from the Aspen Art Museum since the initial planning phase of the Cai Guo-Qiang project. Without question, the welfare of the tortoises has taken the highest priority in every stage of this exhibition,” she says. As it turns out, all three tortoises were rescued from a negligent breeder in Arizona.

Guo-Qiang frequently includes animals in his installations, though, not always living. Heritage (2013) and Head On (2006) both utilized 99 lifelike animal replicas. The tortoises in Moving Ghost Town have deep symbolic value, conveying endurance, longevity, and wisdom. In fact, African Tortoises have a life span similar to humans. They can even outlive their owners — a fact the museum hopes will inform viewers about why the tortoises are not supposed to be pets, particularly in the wake of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles summer blockbuster.

Moving Ghost Town opens Saturday and will remain on view through October 5, 2014 at the Aspen Art Museum.

aspen art museum insta
Via @aspenartmuseum on Instagram

Aspen Opening: Element 47 at the Little Nell

Though named for the Nell Trent character in Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop, Aspen’s Little Nell is anything but an old curiosity. Indeed, its glamorous corridors have been trod by the comely likes of Kate Hudson, Heidi Klum, and Beyoncé. So its new restaurant, Element 47, is sure to cultivate its own star power–something perhaps portended by its dazzlingly sleek, sexy interior, which incorporates a glass wine wall and striking blackened steel elements.

But its culinary ambitions are hardly pretentious, with chef Robert McCormick’s menu drawing on local produce and sustainable seafood. Still, Element 47 brags a 20,000 bottle oenophile’s dream of a cellar (the list nods to Burgundy, a lofty vocation to be sure), and offers an extravagant six-course market menu, complete with wine pairings, for those with more ambitious epicurean tendencies. And about the name: silver, the precious metal upon which Aspen was built, is the 47th element on the periodic table, but you knew that. 

[Related: BlackBook Guide to AspenWhere To Après in Aspen]

Into going out? Download the free, GPS-enabled BlackBook City Guides app for your iPhone or Android and always know the best spots to hit in Aspen or wherever you are. And if you want to stay on top of all the major openings and events in your city of choice, sign up for BlackBook Happenings, a fun, informative, non-spammy email newsletter with the latest and greatest goings-on, delivered to your inbox every Monday.

Where to Après in Aspen

Today’s word is après, as in après-ski cocktails. It’s an important word to know, because at posh ski resorts like Aspen, the après scene is as important as the ski scene. They’re two halves of a snow-filled whole. You spend all day schussing down the slopes (to schuss, by the way, is to ski directly down a slope at high speed, rather than slaloming from side to side, which is what I thought it meant based on how the word sounds) and want an appropriately lively place to celebrate your adventures while you still feel the swaying of the ganjala (see link) in your bones. And in Aspen, you’ve got plenty of options, so we pulled together the best après-ski bars to come down after a powder-filled day, and maybe meet a new friend to keep you warm as the sun sinks behind the mountain. So click on over to our latest Top List, appropriately titled Where To Après in Aspen, and get your high-elevation drink on.

[Related: BlackBook’s Guide to Aspen]

Into going out? Download the free, GPS-enabled BlackBook City Guides app for your iPhone or Android and always know the best spots to hit, wherever you are. And if you want to stay on top of all the major openings and events in your city of choice, sign up for BlackBook Happenings, a fun, informative, non-spammy email newsletter with the latest and greatest goings-on, delivered to your inbox every Monday.

Aspen/Snowmass Opening: The Westin Snowmass Resort

As wintering glitterati arrive in Aspen in droves, it always helps to have somewhere new and appropriately swish to put them up. And so, the old Silvertree Hotel has now been decisively fabulized into the swanky Westin Snowmass, a spectacular new resort in the nearby village of the same name.

Every effort has been made to make it the sort of place you only have to leave when you wish to grace the slopes; it flaunts an on site WestinWORKOUT fitness center and spa, a hot-tub-accessorized pool, the stylish, ski-in-ski-out Snowmass Kitchen restaurant, and, well, a 20,000 square foot conference center for those who would actually put business before pleasure in such an ethereal destination. As we’ve come to expect of Westin, almost everything is Heavenly™, from the beds to the baths, and even the robes (not to mention those views). Expect a not insignificant number of headline grabbing guests.

[Related openings: Wildwood Snowmass and The Bar at Wildwood]

You into going out? Then download the free, GPS-enabled BlackBook City Guides app for your iPhone or Android and always know the best spots to hit, wherever you are. And if you want to stay on top of all the major openings and events in your city of choice, sign up for BlackBook Happenings, a fun, informative, non-spammy email newsletter with the latest and greatest goings-on, delivered to your inbox every Monday.

Aspen Opening: Hotel Jerome

If you can claim Hunter S. Thompson as a former resident, your legend is pretty much sealed. But not content to rest on such gonzo literary laurels, Auberge Resorts’ Hotel Jerome, an Aspen fixture since 1889, is reopening its doors this December following a dazzling renovation. We’re happy to report, too, that the soul of the place has been kept decidedly intact.

TAL-Studio’s Todd-Avery Lenahan worked scrupulously around the prodigious heritage elements of the hotel–including the lobby’s grand fireplace and the Chippendale chinoiserie bar–adding ruggedly elegant hand-stitched leather chairs and rustic chestnut-and-cream flooring. It’s veritably set-piece perfect. The Jerome’s long celebrity roll call also includes the likes of Johnny Depp and Jack Nicholson, so expect the hard-drinking nights to resume post-haste at the storied J-Bar. A sleek new Auberge Spa will provide the necessary next day redemptions.

[Related openings: The Westin SnowmassWildwood Snowmass, and The Bar at Wildwood]

You into going out? Then download the free, GPS-enabled BlackBook City Guides app for your iPhone or Android and always know the best spots to hit, wherever you are. And if you want to stay on top of all the major openings and events in your city of choice, sign up for BlackBook Happenings, a fun, informative, non-spammy email newsletter with the latest and greatest goings-on, delivered to your inbox every Monday.

Snowshoes, Salt Scrubs, and Sunset Rituals at the St. Regis Aspen Resort

In the classic 1942 film Casablanca, Ilsa tries to explain to Rick what happened in Paris that fateful day. "Can I tell you a story, Rick?" she asks. "Does it got a wild finish?" he replies with a sneer. It certainly does, and so did my recent trip to Aspen, Colorado, where I spent three blissful nights at the newly-renovated St. Regis Aspen Resort

A snowstorm on the mid-April day I was to return home gave rise to considerable concern that our puddle-jumper to Denver would be delayed, causing us to miss our connection back to New York. But not to worry, within moments of waking up, the hyper-efficient hotel staff had solved our problems once again: we were swiftly booked in a van that would take us on the four-hour jaunt over the mountains to Denver’s massive, circus-tented airport. It was a nail-biter involving swirling snow, a half-hour traffic standstill, and a lung-taxing sprint to the departure gate, but we made it. Another success to cap off a sublime weekend. 

I had arrived in Aspen on Thursday afternoon as a guest of the hotel, and my butler (that’s right, butler) ushered me into one of the nicest hotel suites I’ve ever seen. The  St. Regis resort set out to redefine luxury with its recent, $40 million refurbishment, and interior architect Lauren Rottet transformed what was already the jewel of Aspen into a truly world class destination. 

The rooms and public spaces are lighter, airier, and more elegant than ever, and the amenities just don’t quit. It was a daunting commission – bringing a hotel into the 21st century while staying connected with a gilded lineage that dates back to 1904 – but the evidence of its success is everywhere, from the chinoiserie cabinets to the open fireplace to the lightning-fast WiFi, which eliminated my normal excuses for not filing stories from the road. In short, there’s no better way to enjoy this striking, silver-flecked, year-round resort town. 

Snack Attack

On the first evening, our cozy coterie of New York journalists assembled in the lobby and marched two blocks down the road to Jimmy’s, an upscale New American restaurant that draws a mix of black-clad urbanites and well-heeled cowboys, all delighting in specialties like Rocky Mountain trout and oven-roasted pork tenderloin. I washed down my victuals with a couple of Fat Tire Amber Ales (one of my favorites) and listened to Rottet explain her thought process in refurbishing the hotel: rather than being entirely beholden to a Colorado aesthetic, she wanted to give the St. Regis an international flair, with western touches complemented by formal details like bright crystal chandeliers, antiqued nickel surfaces, and a mix of classic and contemporary art. 

We continued the conversation – which veered into a discussion of modern educational theory and the complexities of designing an office for Bill Gates – at the resort’s Shadow Mountain Lounge, where I enjoyed the bartender’s take on the Vesper martini. It was a fine welcome to the property.

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Bloody Hell

The next morning found us at breakfast in the restaurant, munching on omelets and slurping smoothies as we discussed the day’s itinerary. When the conversation turned to morning libations, I let slide that I don’t like Bloody Marys – the staple of the genteel Sunday brunch. What can I say? I don’t enjoy tomato juice, the name "Bloody Mary"  leaves me feeling a bit uneasy, and drinking vodka during daylight hours seems weird to me. 

I soon regretted my candor, as we were ushered into the adjacent ballroom to experience one of the St. Regis brand’s many "rituals": the bespoke Bloody Mary. As it happens, the U.S. debut of the Bloody Mary happened at the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis New York, so it’s a big deal for the St. Regis brand. Me and my big mouth. Oh well, I don’t like bloodies, but I know plenty of people who do, so I made nice and participated in a contest that pitted girls against boys in creating a spectacular Bloody Mary. We boys won, thanks in part to my basil slapping technique, but mostly because my Y-chromosomed compadres separately blended red and yellow tomatoes, combining then in such a way that left a layered, yin-yang visual affect in the glass. I’m told it tasted good too, but I’ll have take their word on that.  

Snow Job

And then we were on to the day’s activity: snowshoeing. We took the amazing Silver Queen gondola to the top of Aspen mountain, which featured sweeping views of the Continental Divide. (One of our group mentioned that locals refer to it as the "ganjala," since the 18 minutes spent in your private gondola provides a perfect opportunity to get "lifted.") After a surprisingly good lunch at the Sundeck Restaurant (elevation 11,212 feet) we met up with Dan of Aces Aspen (The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies), who outfitted us with snowshoes and led us on an enlightening tour of the mountain ridge. We learned about the area’s silver mining history, studied some animal poop, and discovered the difference between fir, pine, and spruce trees (it has to do with the flatness and aroma of the needles, and how they’re clustered). 

We were joined on the tour by a really cute family – middle aged dad, eight-year-old daughter, and super-fit 80-year-old grandma – and a rather bitter woman who couldn’t stop finding fault with everything Dan took the time to explain. (She was particularly disturbed that he couldn’t diagnose some fungus problem she was having with her trees back home.) So with one exception, we all had a wonderful time and thanked Dan profusely for the (free) tour. (Tipping for good service is customary.)

Screw It

That afternoon I kipped down for an hour in the big bed and had vivid dreams that I forgot moments after I woke up. It was time for dinner with our hosts in the hotel’s boffo presidential suite, which consisted of an amazing five-course service from executive chef Jason Adams: grilled Anjou pear salad, smoked trout brandade, a watermelon mojito sorbet intermezzo, spiced Colorado lamb saddle, and a "Vosges Trio" of mousse, ice cream and chili chocolate for dessert. Every course was paired with a delicious wine chosen by sommelier LeeAnn Kaufman, who was an interesting character. ("If you don’t like it, I’ll drink it," she said.)

The wines, primarily from the Ken Forrester vineyards of the Stellenbosch region of South Africa, were all sublime, particularly the FMC 2009 Chenin Blanc. My biggest takeaway from the evening’s wine selection: Every bottle featured a screw cap instead of a cork. I love screw-cap wines. They’re so much easier to open and way better for the wine. So if the St. Regis Aspen is now serving screw-cap wines in its presidential suite, the tyranny of the cork has finally come to an end. Long live the screw cap!

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Aspen Cocktails

It was still early when dinner ended, so I headed into town for a drink, bumping into another member of our group along the way. On a whim, we headed into Justice Snow’s Restaurant + Bar. I was impressed from the start. We were greeted with a smile and a couple glasses of water while we decided what to order. The well-dressed bartender walked us through their offerings, suggesting to me a crisp draft beer from the Aspen Brewery, which I loved. My colleague said she didn’t know exactly what she wanted, but she liked gin, so he whipped up a little masterpiece on the fly, and told her that if she didn’t like it he’d make something else. She liked it very much. Justice Snow’s is exactly the kind of cocktail bar I enjoy, with a grand selection of spirits and a welcoming attitude with the singular goal of getting you a drink you’ll truly enjoy. It would be a perfect fit in New York, except they’d have to raise their prices. If you’re a cocktail connoisseur and you find yourself in Aspen, don’t miss it. From there, we hit another bar, this one an Irisher named Finbarr’s. It was pleasant and we sipped Guinness until a drunk and inquisitive man who said he wrote about sports for The New York Times made things uncomfortable, so we left. It was midnight. 

Spa Day

Saturday was Spa Day, so I headed to Remede Spa for a treatment. Now, I’m the farthest thing from a spa aficionado – I’ve only been once before – but I enjoy getting massages as much as anybody, so I was game. The Remede Spa has a cool concept where they pair treatments with light bites dreamed up by chef Jamie Flatt. We started out with a few deep breaths in the oxygen lounge, which didn’t do much for me, before moving on to the treatment, which did. A full-body salt scrub, which I showered off, was followed by a full-body massage. I was a bit sore from snowshoeing so it did wonders. I felt great. We ended with some custom juices and a round of sparkling wine. Every day should start this way. 

I walked through town that afternoon, dropping by the famous Carl’s Pharmacy (which is really an everything store) to buy a book for my five-year-old son called Snowmastodon! Snow Day Adventure, which is loosely based on the recent discovery of a bunch of dinosaur fossils in nearby Snowmass. The air was clean and smelled like snow, and I found the town to be spotless, charming, and eminently walkable.

How Do You Après? 

Then it was back to the hotel for another one of the St. Regis rituals (and one I can totally get behind): afternoon tea. Instead of the prim and proper English style of tea service, the St. Regis Aspen version involves a flight of hot chocolate (I love flights of anything) and a selection of snacks, from grilled cheese sandwiches to fresh fruit to delectable moon pies. It’s a fun way to "après," which is the verb they use to describe après-ski activities. We aprèd and talked about ghosts, haunted houses, and fortune-telling, none of which I believe in (the rest of the group was divided). 

But we had one more après event to experience: the sabering ritual. Every afternoon, sommelier LeeAnn Kaufman sabres open a bottle of the hotel’s signature 315 bubbly. I’d never seen sabering live and up-close before, so it was a cool experience. Kaufman brought us out to the hotel’s courtyard, where she first asked for a moment of silence for the victims of the Titanic disaster. It was 100 years ago that day – that very moment – that the unsinkable ship went down, taking the St. Regis hotels founder John Jacob Astor IV with it. It called for a minute of quite contemplation. A light snow was falling. Then Kaufman held the bottle by its base in her left hand and expertly swiped the saber up the seam with her right, sending the cork, and a little ring of glass around it, flying across the courtyard. I was afraid that little bits of glass might end up in my champagne flute, but I was assured that the force of the explosion sends everything outward. I checked my drink anyway. Nothing but bubbles. 

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Cache Cow

Our final dinner was at a posh restaurant called Cache Cache, without a doubt one of the finest restaurants in town. We eschewed the wine and opted for cocktails instead: I had a manhattan, while my colleagues sipped dirty martinis and gimlets. For my entree, I had a steak, like an Aspen cowboy should. Everything, including the service, was flawless. After dinner, we dropped by the historic Red Onion bar (est. 1892) for a round of beers. A group of chirpy young women were downing ski shots – a ritual involving drinking synchronized shots from glasses embedded into a ski. We skipped the ski, but I slept well all the same.

Contingency Plans

When I pulled my curtains apart the next morning, I was greeted with the beautiful sight of fresh snow. My first though: How lovely! My second: Uh oh. Will the Frontier Airlines prop plane make it out in time to make my connecting flight in Denver? It was unclear, so, thanks to some heroic efforts from the front desk staff, we piled into the van for a trip over the mountains to Denver. I sat next to Walter, the president of Aspen Mountain Rescue, who had a trip’s worth of great stories about skiing and dramatic rescues. "I play hard," said Walter. Indeed. After our own drama, we made it safely on our flight, and within hours I was in a long, snaking taxi line at LaGuardia.

So, as for Aspen, it’s a truly lovely town, and there’s so much more to do than just skiing. I’d happily return in the summer to go hiking, fishing, rafting, or bar-hopping. And if I could afford it, I’d stay in the St. Regis Aspen in a New York minute. There’s no better way to enjoy the best of Aspen. Click here to see the BlackBook Guide to Aspen, or download the free BlackBook City Guides app for your iPhone or Android

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Hit the Slopes as Ski Season Kicks Off

With winter’s first snow well behind us in many parts of the country, it’s time to think about our options for ski season. The Fairmont Chateau Whistler is making the most of its location at the foot of Blackcomb Mountain by allowing guests staying for two nights or more to ski for free (two lift tickets per room) while Westin’s Tremblant Hotel offers two First Track tickets per room to let you be the first ones on the slopes in the morning, as well as ice skate rentals and nighttime snow tubing passes.

But by far the most expansive deal is the Aspen Skiing Company’s Ultimate Ski Pass, which allows unlimited first tracks before the chairlifts open for the day, a chance to meet the U.S. Women’s Ski Team, and breakfast with the president of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. The $18,000 pass provides charitable support to public schools in Aspen as well as World Cup ski racing, and are valid at Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass, and Buttermilk.

BlackBook Nightlife Investigations: Austria’s Apres Ski Scene

The nice thing about being on a junket in Austria on Audi’s dime — which you can read about here, but you can read more about it on this blog come Monday, when I’ll tell you all about how I flew out here on Business Class, raced cars on ice and did it for free — is not only that I’m actually on this junket, on work time, but that I’m on this junket in a foreign land, with a few extra moments to devote to BlackBook‘s special cross-section of travel and nightlife. So, in the interest of “work,” I ventured out into the town to see how the locals do the do. With a few fellow junketeers, we went out to the lovely Kaprun, Austria, which is about an hour outside of Salzberg, on the first night, and found out what Austria’s apres ski scene was like.

Pavilion had a huge banner on the outside that said APRES SKI, which meant, you know, it was probably an Apres bar. It also had disco lights and raging techno blasting, so there was that. The four junketeers entered Pavillion — a round room halved in two, with one side as a “dance floor” and the other acting as more of a traditional beer (“bier”?) bar — to this song.

It’s been stuck in my head ever since. And not because I enjoy anything about it.

The bar was filled with cigarette smoke and Germans and Austrians, singing and laughing along to this track, which is apparently, as a translation would have it, fairly epic, despite its totally nonsense music video. As interpreted by Google Translate:

Amsterdam Come, we go to Amsterdam I know that nothing can happen to us You and I, we are still in control We long sat on the sinking ship

“Stay, I’ve never said How, you asked me then? Love has totally failed In Amsterdam Amsterdam

This endeared the people of this bar to me, after the fact. I still want to bludgeon the person responsible for this “song,” however.

On the less annoying side, everyone seemed to be friends! And they were complete strangers who had just been skiing together, from what I could gather (observed: introductory conversation). In fact, that was another thing I noticed about all the people doing skiing here! They were of all stripes. And Kaprun is, as it would be, a fairly famous Austrian skiing destination. And I’m glad to know that Austria’s big skiing destinations aren’t like ours. There aren’t any luxe hotels or restaurants here, like, say, Aspen, Sun Valley, Park City, or any of the rest of America’s chichi skiing destinations. And if this place — which was raging — could be taken to be indicative of the rest of Austria’s skiing scene (which, as a dumbass American, I’m wont to assume, though am fairly certain it actually is), this also endears Austria’s skiing scene to me. Because there was so little getting in the way of people getting plastered and bonding over a common, shared experience at 6pm.

And then I left because I didn’t understand any German, and had to buy an adapter for the silly European plugs. And then I sent my bosses this email.

From: Foster Kamer Sent: Tue 1/5/2010 5:34 PM To: Chris Cc: Willa Subject: RE: ice driver

Hello from Austria. I’m exhausted. I’ll put something up in EE. Should I do one post or break it up into two? Just got on the internets after having to seek out an adapter in KAPRUN and buying WiFi, which is where we are. Everyone is speaking German on the TV, I don’t get it. Trenchant Observation: “Schnitzel” is just a fancy word for “Chicken Cutlet” which you can pretty much get at every bodega, but they’re OBSESSED with it here. Also, I walked around to seek out some local scenes and I came across a bar called APRES, appropriately, slammed with people at 6PM, disco lights raging, many young, all screaming along to a song now jammed into my head. I had a beer there and left. Also, guys wear T-Shirts tucked in here. What’s with that? I thought only retarded kids did that.

Over and out,

CONCLUSION: AUSTRIA’S APRES SKI SCENE HAS FAR LESS BULLSHIT THAN THOSE SCENES BELONGING TO MANY OF AMERICA’S LUXURY SKIING DESTINATIONS. BUT ALSO HAS ANNOYING TECHNO-TRANCE-POP, MUCH LIKE THE REST OF THIS PART OF THE WORLD. OH, AND, LOTS OF PEOPLE SPEAKING LANGUAGES YOU PROBABLY DON’T UNDERSTAND.

INVESTIGATION: CLOSED. For now.

Kitchen Club and Aspen Close

It is a tale of two closings. For most, New Year’s meant renewal, a fresh start, but for at least two popular haunts it meant the end. Word comes that Nolita mainstay the Kitchen Club will not reopen and neither will Aspen (not to be confused with Aspen Social Club). Both closings are due in part to an anti-business atmosphere at the community board level and in NYC and state political circles. Political cronies like Daniel Squadron are pushing for more restrictions on liquor licenses, while businesses are forced to close or are denied licensing. The results are that more people enter the unemployment ranks or are unable to make ends meet with secondary hospitality jobs. Neither spot was a “problem spot.” Complaining neighbors were not an issue. Both places are shuttered and more will likely follow. The jobless rate is unprecedentedly high, yet restaurants and bars are unable to function because of the special interests of community board members and real estate backed politicos.

Marja Samson ruled the Kitchen Club on the corner of Prince and Mott. Many would disagree, pointing out that Chibi, her ever present French bulldog, was actually in charge. Long before Northern Little Italy was renamed Nolita by realtors seeking to purge visions of mobsters for yuppies buying condos, Marja was pushing quirky fare to an intelligent crowd. A meal here cost a bit more than the other local haunts like Cafes Habana and Gitane, and there were a few more sports jackets in the dining room, but that’s how she liked it. She served quality fare and felt her crowd would pay for it. The thing she didn’t serve was alcohol. As she was in the proximity of a church and the church school across the street, a license to serve liquor was not allowed.

Why the church has influence on the lives of individuals or businesses that march to the beat of a different drummer is beyond me. I thought that there was separation between church and state. That separation does indeed exist and it is measurable. Right now, a liquor license will not be issued to a joint if it is within 200 feet of the entrance of a church. It’s called the 200 foot rule. Squadron wants to change that to 200 feet from any part of the church or school. As the normal business hours of schools and churches don’t often overlap with bars, this seems silly and unconstitutionally harmful. It’s a throw back to what were called the blue laws. It used to be that liquor stores couldn’t be open on Sundays as well, but that was changed, as that separation of church and state thingy was put in by Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson and that crew and still carries some weight.

Kitchen Club didn’t sell liquor and when the rents were raised to a level only a Gap or Starbucks could pay she couldn’t survive. Liquor is where the money is at. Make no mistake about it, without cocktails most places can’t survive. Kitchen Club was a big part of the fabric of the Nolita community. Four doors east, 24, celebrity chef Nicki Cascone’s place, has a full bar. Two more doors east at Jacques people are enjoying cocktails. We’re talking 60 feet. Now a bunch of waitresses, kitchen help and a couple of maitre d’s are looking for work and bread isn’t being delivered. Garbage isn’t being picked up and the folks of Nolita are without Marja and Chibi.

Aspen is a different story, but more of the same. The location, 22nd street between 5th and 6th is less than ideal. There isn’t much around it, little foot traffic and few neighbors. I designed the joint and knew that if it wasn’t striking and romantic, people wouldn’t come. Word comes from reliable sources that a clerical error in the license renewal process forced a hearing at the community board level. The delay cost the restaurant its Christmas season and that was that. More people out of work. Aspen was victim of the mindset of a community board that wants fewer licenses. 21st street between 5th and 6th is a targeted area with constant police harassment, similar to what destroyed, for all intents, the West 27th street club corridor. On a map it’s a short distance, but in reality Aspen is far away from the goings on one block south. Greg Brier is a seasoned operator. He moved the holiday parties to his other locations, but Aspen is done. Go to any community board hearing and see a condition where due process, common decency and logic fall victim to unelected local yokels who do not have any idea what the people in the community desire, nor do they care. Businesses have a right to function within parameters of decency. Politicians prioritize creating jobs while they regulate businesses out of existence and create unemployment. I guess that’s business as usual.