Big Tuna restaurant closes its doors

An end of an Oak Creek era or is it?

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— The large fish in the dining room will eventually come down. Most of the pictures will stay. The rustic atmosphere shouldn't change all that much.

But the name will go.

Big Tuna's closed to regular business in late November, with the exception of a few commitments during the holidays.

Owner Karrie Littman decided to sell the building and most of its amenities, but she intends to hold on to the name that earned such a large following in the Yampa Valley.

"It's something that I don't want to let go of," she said. "It's one of those things that you just can't give away."

The possibility of one day re-opening Big Tuna's in a different location is not completely out of the question for Littman.

With the name comes recipes and a style of service all its own that could be successfully taken up again, she said. A slow start to the ski season, she said, provided the last reason she needed to consider permanently closing the restaurant. Now the same economic climate that hastened Littman's decision to close Big Tuna's might hamper her efforts to sell the building. She is, however, in no hurry to close the sale.

"I realize that it might be a few months before this place gets a buyer," she said. "But I don't mind waiting."

While Big Tunas kept its doors open, the restaurant held its own by filling a unique niche, Littman said.

She and her husband, Mark, took pride in promoting an establishment that welcomed people from all walks of life, she said.

The divisions that ran through Oak Creek many years ago were left at the door.

"We could have a table of Oak Creek police officers and a table of Harley riders sitting across from each other," Littman said. "And everything would be hunky-dory."

Like many eateries in South Routt, Big Tuna's offered an original setting that fared well with locals and visitors, said Clare Taylor, who owns and operates Dinty Moore's Pizza with her husband.

"It was a great mix of everything," Taylor said.

When Mark and Karrie Littman opened Big Tuna's in 1991, only Dinty Moore's Pizza and Chelsea's Restaurant existed in Oak Creek. Mark cooked up favorites like his one-of-a-kind chicken fried steak, and Karrie waited tables and bartended.

Although the town has grown and changed since they first decided to take a chance and run their own restaurant in Oak Creek, Littman said she appreciates the area and its history as much as she did when she first moved to northwestern Colorado.

The beauty of her adopted home keeps her feet firmly planted in the Yampa Valley, when life's circumstances might suggest she do otherwise, she said.

When her husband died while scuba diving in Florida in May, she kept Big Tuna's running.

Now that she is ready to turn the building over to new hands, she said that doesn't mean she is ready to leave the place that means so much to her.

"A lot of people keep asking me if I'm going back home," she said. "But then I look around me and wonder why I would want to do such a thing."

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