Steamboat’s Sweet Pea nears reopening |

Steamboat’s Sweet Pea nears reopening

Katherine Zambrana planning to open cafe June 15

Mike Lawrence

— Katherine Zambrana's excite­­­ment is obvious, and her focus is singular.

"I'm doing great," Zambrana, owner of Sweet Pea Market and Cafe in downtown Steamboat Springs, said Wednesday. "My No. 1 goal is to make Sweet Pea successful. … We have a great team in place."

That team includes produce manager Romy Klinger and chefs Christie Kiley and Lulu Martin along with several returning staff members. Zambrana said she's planning to open Sweet Pea's cafe June 15, serving lunch and dinner with seating for 28 indoors and 49 more outdoors on the cafe's newly renovated deck along the Yampa River. Sweet Pea's smoothie bar will open June 15, as well, she said.

The produce market could begin sales of some plants, herbs and flower baskets this week, depending on how long the sunshine sticks around. The weather is creating a late spring growing season for Sweet Pea's farmers in areas including Palisade, Zambrana said.

As she walked through Sweet Pea last week, Zambrana pointed out renovations under way and talked about plans that include increased promotion of dinners. Sweet Pea will offer an expanded menu with new ideas from Kiley, who recently moved back to Steamboat Springs after working as a private chef and sommelier in the Napa Valley.

"We're psyched to open up," Zambrana said.

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It's been a tough year for the Yampa Street eatery and produce market.

The Routt County Board of Commissioners, acting as the Routt County Board of Health, revoked Sweet Pea's retail food establishment license Sept. 14 because of repeated code violations. The Routt County Department of Environmental Health assessed three fines of $1,000 each in summer 2010 to Zambrana and business partner Jonathon Hieb. They paid all the fines.

The violation that led to inspections, fines and the September hearing involved Sweet Pea's operation with more seating capacity than its one restroom allowed, according to state health regulations.

Sweet Pea installed a second bathroom late last summer, and it remains as part of the new renovations.

Other violations cited at Sweet Pea last summer included food stored beneath an unshielded sewer line in a basement walk-in cooler, which was installed without a permit. The Board of Health said public health and safety concerns, accountability issues for the estimated 250 food establishments in Routt County, restaurant inspection compliance and even potential tourism impacts also factored into the revocation.

Zambrana said Wednesday that the basement no longer will be used for any food storage. Walking through those rooms now reveals cleaned-out, empty spaces, which Zambrana said will be used solely for utility services.

Sweet Pea is planning to install a walk-in cooler in its backyard, behind a bar that will service the deck area.

Routt County environmental health specialist Jason Striker said he reviewed and approved plans for Sweet Pea's renovations, which Zambrana estimated will cost $25,000 to $30,000.

"They've completed their plan review, and their plan review has been approved by our department. When they are ready for me, I'll do their pre-operational inspection," Striker said Thursday. "The plans meet all the requirements of the Colorado retail and food regulations."

Carl Dunham, of the Routt County Regional Building Department, also spoke well of Sweet Pea's progress.

"The work that they are performing is going to comply with the codes," Dunham said.

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Hieb was arrested May 19 on suspicion of stealing $2,631 in cash and product from his off-season employer, Bella's wine bar.

"Jonathon is going to be taking a leave of absence from Sweet Pea, but he will be available for consulting," said Steamboat lawyer Grant P. Bursek, who represents Sweet Pea.

Bursek declined to comment on whether Hieb's status as a co-owner of the business would continue.

Zambrana indicated she's looking forward to a positive summer for the market she's invested in since 2004.

"It's a great business, and I want to keep it alive," she said. "My No. 1 goal in life is Sweet Pea."

To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or email

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