Fatbelly Burgers set to take prime Basalt space
BASALT, Colorado – Keep an eye peeled for fat bellies in Basalt before the end of the summer.
Fatbelly Burgers is negotiating to set up shop in the Midland Avenue space abruptly vacated by Basalt Bistro this week, Fatbelly chef and owner Shane Vetter confirmed Thursday. He hopes to sign a lease in the next few days, remodel the space and open a full-service restaurant in early September.
The Colorado Department of Revenue took an enforcement action Tuesday against Basalt Bistro for allegedly not paying $14,542.92 in sales and withholding taxes, according to department spokesman Mark Couch. The sales taxes were delinquent since February, he said, and the withholding taxes hadn’t been paid since January.
“We seized that business at about 10:30 in the morning,” he said.
In typical circumstances, the business operator would have been asked to surrender the keys, the restaurant would have been closed and the revenue department would auction off equipment and fixtures inside to apply to the tax deficiency. That step wasn’t necessary in the Basalt Bistro case because the owner of the building, Joseph Ciri, intervened.
“The amount was paid off by the landlord of the building,” Couch said. “There is no tax liability anymore.”
As far as the revenue department was concerned, the restaurant was legally capable to resume operations, Couch said.
Ciri and his wife, Larkin, were in the Basalt Bistro space Thursday morning but they declined to discuss what happened with the restaurant, other than to say it was “very unfortunate.”
Ciri bought the building and restaurant about seven years ago. He operated the restaurant for six years before selling to Jody Nobel in March 2009. Nobel declined comment Thursday.
Ciri said word of the closure traveled fast in the local restaurant community. He said he’s received several inquires since Tuesday from people who wanted to open a restaurant. He chose to work with the person he believes has a very solid business plan and chance for success. The Ciris didn’t want to name the restaurant until the lease was signed.
Vetter said he is excited about the prospect of opening a restaurant in Basalt. His Fatbelly Burgers is a popular grab-and-go joint that opened Nov. 13 on Carbondale’s Main Street. There is often a line flowing out the door around noon and people gathered outside waiting for their burgers or lunching on a picnic table. The Carbondale eatery will remain open.
Vetter said he wants to create the same atmosphere of a community gathering place in Basalt. The new restaurant will serve the same signature burgers from grass-fed beef supplied by the Jacober brothers of Carbondale through their Crystal River Meats. In addition, the restaurant will carry locally-raised pork and lamb and locally-grown vegetables.
“It’s the full Fatbelly concept,” Vetter said.
The Basalt restaurant will be a full-service establishment with seating and waiters. The bar will remain in a space that’s been a bar and restaurant for decades.
Vetter moved to Basalt from New York nearly a decade ago. He lives in town with his wife and children.
“I kind of fell in love with Colorado living in Basalt,” he said.
It has been his vision for some time to open a Basalt restaurant when the right opportunity knocked. That happened this week. “Joe came knocking on the door,” Vetter quipped.
The Vetters are neighbors of the Ciris. The Ciris have visited Fatbelly Burgers and told Shane the chance might arise for him to expand to Basalt someday. No one envisioned it unfolding like it did.
The old Midland Bar was converted into a the bistro by Richard Duddy in 1991. After some initial grumbling from some quarters about the transformation of a biker bar into a French eatery, the establishment became one of the hotspots of Basalt.
Ciri said many people consider the space the best site in Basalt for a restaurant. The historic building commands a central spot on the main drag. When asked what it takes to survive during these tough economic times, he replied, “I think family-oriented restaurants that are affordable – and reasonable landlords.”
It was a tough week for restaurants in Basalt. Butch’s Lobster Bar, a few paces away from the Bistro, closed Sunday night after one year in Basalt.
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