After 11 years of running the Columbine Restaurant at the Rifle Creek Golf Course, Lotti and Reto Luzi went out in style on New Year's Eve.
"We have all-you-can-eat lobster, crab legs, and prime rib," said Lotti Luzi, reached at the restaurant as she was prepping for dinner on the last day of 2012. "And every guest gets a glass of champagne."
The Luzis, who hail from Switzerland but have lived in Western Colorado since 1978, closed their restaurant on Tuesday after more than a decade in business.
Grady Hazelton, founder and owner of WingNutz Bar and Grill in Rifle, will take over the golf course eatery. He plans to open an Irish-themed restaurant called "Mulligan's at Rifle Creek," which will feature standard clubhouse food like burgers and steaks, along with a few Irish specialties. Current WingNutz employee Dani Robinson will manage the new restaurant, he said.
"[Hazelton] will bring clients that are loyal to him to our venue," said Chris Christensen, president of the Rifle Creek Land Co. board of directors, which owns the restaurant and golf course. "It wasn't easy to let Reto and Lotti go, and they provided some good service as well, but we're excited for the change."
Christensen said the board put the restaurant contract out for bid in hopes of attracting a tenant that could bring more business to the golf course, which has struggled financially in recent years.
Lotti Luzi said she and her husband were disappointed, but proud of having lasted as long as they did in the business.
"I'll miss my close friends, and the unbelievable friendships with our golfers," she said. "You know what; everyone drinks and eats. Being so far out of the way, you have to offer something special out here."
Before opening the Columbine restaurant, Reto Luzi worked at Buffalo Valley restaurant and the Timberline Restaurant in Snowmass Village. The Luzis live in Basalt.
Lotti Luzi said the couple has talked about opening a new family restaurant in downtown Rifle, but has no concrete plans at this point.
Hazelton, for his part, will soon be busy remodeling the restaurant space in preparation for a spring grand opening on St. Patrick's Day, March 17.
Although the restaurant typically closes in January and February, Hazelton said he hopes to keep it open next winter by increasing the number of special events.
As it happens, Hazelton took part in a special event of his own at the golf course.
"My wife and I got married there 4 and a half years ago," he said. "I've always liked the