Steamboat Springs After 15 years, the Inferno restaurant and popular night club will close its doors in late May because it is losing its lease.
The Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. sold the space the Inferno calls home to Christy Sports Ltd. last fall. As part of the deal, the ski corp. retained an option to lease the space back after the current lease -- to the Inferno -- expires on May 31. Ski corp. officials have decided to exercise their right to rent the 3,800-square-foot basement space from Christy Sports. Terms of the lease are being negotiated.
The building the Inferno is in is at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area, across the Gondola Square from the ticket office. SportStalker, which is owned by Christy Sports, occupies the Christy-owned upstairs portion of the building.
"This was a predetermined deal," Christy Sports regional manager Bob Dapper said of the ski corp. lease. "We've tried to be very sensitive about the whole thing. I've always liked everybody at the Inferno and they've been great tenants."
Tim Greene, Steamboat's director of real estate, said ski corp. will use the space to satisfy a number of guest service needs but he was not ready to disclose what those specific needs are.
"I can tell you it will not be a locker space for the Steamboat Grand," he said. "Economically, it made more sense to lease the space than build new space and that's why we're doing this."
Inferno owner Alex Wolf said he and his business partner Karen Kallenberger are upset that their lease will not be renewed but they do not plan to relocate the club.
"There's not that much opportunity to open a night club right now," Wolf said. "There are simply not that many viable spots. We've had an excellent location for a national-level club and there's no better formula for success than location."
Wolf said he would have tried to purchase the space from ski corp. last year but was not given the opportunity.
Greene said ski corp. sold the basement of the building to Christy Sports because the sporting goods company already owned 11,000 square feet of it.
"We thought it would make more sense for there to be one owner of the building. We offered it to them first and they bought it," he said. "This was a financing vehicle that's not uncommon. Our past financial difficulties are well documented and we used this financing tactic during that time so some of our merchants could benefit and we could benefit as well by being able to continue to use the space at the base of the mountain."
Over the years, the Inferno has grown to a popular club frequented by locals and tourists alike. Wolf said that he has tried to bring in national bands and provide quality entertainment for young adults in Steamboat. Most recently, The Samples, a Colorado band with a nationally-recognized name, played at the Inferno.
"We brought in well over 30 acts this winter," he said. "People love our bands and of course disco. I think our closing down is really going to impact nightlife in this town. Kids need some place to go and things to do at night. This has been suitable nightlife. I don't think people will realize how big this is going to hurt until long after we're gone."
Wolf said he believes some of the larger national acts won't be able to perform in Steamboat because of space limitations at other bars. He said he plans to work with the Sheraton to bring in some of those acts, but there will be a drastic reduction in the level of live music many residents have become accustomed to.
Regular customers of the club have noticed that the Inferno's interior has deteriorated over the past year. Wolf said that he wanted to apologize for that.
"I wanted to spend $100,000 on renovations but I couldn't get a guaranteed five-year lease," he said. "It didn't make sense for me to upgrade the Inferno because I wouldn't get the money back. I've tried to make the best of it. The club's gotten a bad rap, but we're the biggest club in town and an easy target."
Kallenberger said that she is unsure of what her future in the nightclub business holds.
"I have another job in Steamboat but I'd like to open another club," she said. "Steamboat has a need for nightlife and the Inferno was part of the whole Steamboat experience. There's definitely a need for a club like this in town but whether I'll be able to or not I haven't figured out yet."
Wolf will now concentrate his efforts on his other business, The Cellar Lounge, in downtown Steamboat. He also said he will continue to watch for nightclub opportunities in town.
"We knew it would end like this. The mountain was reluctant to give us a lease five years ago. I thought I could change their perception but I couldn't," Wolf said. "It's been really frustrating the last couple of years and now I'm looking forward to taking a break. Maybe I'll open another club, but it's iffy.
The Inferno will close its doors the third week in May and Wolf said he plans to go out with a bang.
"We have a lot of end-of-the-year parties planned with lots of prize giveaways. Our last night will be our last disco."
-- To reach Bryna Larsen call 871-4205 or e-mail email@example.com