Adios, Dos Amigos

Restaurant's closure could be bellwether for Ski Time Square



Gary Baxter, owner of Dos Amigos in Ski Time Square, said he plans to close the restaurant Sept. 2 because of an uncertain future, declining traffic in the area and rising cost of business. The restaurant has been open since 1979.

— On Friday morning, Don Grueser stood alone in Fuzziwig's Candy Factory in Ski Time Square. The store was replete with sweets, but devoid of people. An undisturbed baking sheet of chocolate-covered pretzels sat near the front window, and in a span of 20 minutes, the only visitor to the store was a construction worker who asked if he could run a faucet to flush the water lines.

"Ski Time Square doesn't exist anymore," Grueser said.

A couple doors down, at The Tugboat Grill & Pub, co-owner Larry Lamb waited for the water to be turned back on so he could open the restaurant. There have been days this summer when he hasn't been able to open until 4 p.m. because of the water being shut off for construction projects in the area.

At Steamboat Trading Co., owner Erich Esswein needed only one word to describe business this summer - "horrible."

And down the street, at Dos Amigos, owner Gary Baxter discussed why he's had enough of all the hassles in Ski Time Square. After 32 years, the restaurant and bar will close Sept. 2.

"In Ski Time Square, I'm gone," said Baxter, who has been the sole owner of Dos Amigos since 2005, has been at least a part owner since 1989, and began working at the restaurant in the early 1980s. "I want nothing to do with Ski Time Square or the new owners. The uncertainty that's here, I can't face."

Ski Time Square, along with Thunderhead Lodge, was sold in April for $53.9 million to Washington, D.C., real estate developer Cafritz Interests. Cafritz and Colorado-based developer The Atira Group have made no secret of their plans to demolish and rebuild Ski Time Square.

Jane Blackstone, a development manager for The Atira Group, said Ski Time Square tenants will be asked to leave the property next summer in anticipation of the demolition, which is slated for fall 2008. Construction of the new development would begin in spring 2009 and it would be at least two more years before it is ready to be occupied, Blackstone said.

Business down

Baxter decided to get out early, citing rising operating costs and a 50 percent reduction in business due to construction in the area. Baxter said the relocation of special events that used to be held on or near the ski mountain - such as the Hot Air Balloon Rodeo and the Free Summer Concert Series - also have hurt business. Baxter said he is in the beginning stages of looking for a new location to reopen the restaurant.

"I'm open to anywhere," Baxter said. "Anywhere in Routt County, really."

Other Ski Time Square businesses regret the loss of Dos Amigos. Esswein said Dos Amigos was a popular restaurant and he was surprised to hear it would be closing.

"It will be very negative for Ski Time Square," Esswein said. "The restaurants are the draw here."

Grueser, whose wife is a co-owner of Fuzziwig's, said the candy store will suffer with Dos Amigos' closure. Less diners in Ski Time Square means less of the walk-by, impulse shoppers on whom a candy store relies.

"Every time one person goes out, Ski Time Square becomes a less viable place to shop," Grueser said.

Baxter said he believes other businesses will follow his exit from Ski Time Square, although they may stick it out through the next ski season. Grueser said closing the candy shop has been considered and echoed Baxter's claim that construction near Ski Time Square - part of a multi-year, $23 million redevelopment project at the base of Steamboat Ski Area - has hurt business by at least 50 percent.

"There isn't any" business, Grueser said. "It doesn't exist. I really feel the city or developer ought to consider some supplemental assistance in destroying our business."

Fuzziwig's is open only on Fridays and Saturdays this summer, compared with seven days a week last summer, Grueser said. At Tugboat, Lamb said business is down, but to a lesser degree. Sales in June were down 8 percent from the same month last year, Lamb said.

"It's been hurt by all this construction, but we're still doing business," Lamb said.

Other business owners in Ski Time Square agree with Lamb that operating costs have increased since the property was sold. But Mountain Resorts, which was hired by Cafritz to replace the Steamboat Sheraton Resort as Ski Time Square's property manager, said it has not altered the tenants' leases or imposed any new charges.

Jim Landers, vice president of operations for Mountain Resort's associate management division, said any increase in operating costs most likely is the result of higher taxes - the value of Ski Time Square has increased from $11.6 million in 2005 to $20.3 million in 2007, County Assessor Mike Kerrigan said - and increases in the common area maintenance fee tenants pay.

That fee covers the cost of Ski Time Square sidewalks, street lamps and snow removal, among other things. Landers said the fee is based on the previous year's costs and is higher this year because of heavy snowstorms in 2006.

In the dark

Lamb said Tugboat will stay put in Ski Time Square until he is forced to leave. He said he'd like to return when Ski Time Square's redevelopment is complete. He has been given no indication whether that will be possible, however, and complained about an overall lack of communication from Cafritz and Atira.

"They don't care," Lamb said. "All they want is to tear it all down. They don't care a rip whether we're here or not."

Blackstone said she couldn't say whether existing Ski Time Square businesses would be offered space in the new development. She said redevelopment plans for Ski Time Square are preliminary and that it is not yet known what the mix will be between retail and residential space.

Although Blackstone said there have been regular meetings with Ski Time Square tenants and efforts to "keep them in the loop," Esswein said communication has been lacking and that tenants have been met with indifference.

"It seems as though the desire is to get us out of here as soon as possible," Esswein said. "If a place in Torian Plum became available, I'd move in a second."

Mountain Resorts is making it easier for businesses to leave Ski Time Square if they like. Baxter's lease at Dos Amigos was until 2010, but he was allowed out of it early. Landers said all of Ski Time Square's businesses are allowed to end their leases early without a penalty. It is a recognition of the precarious spot the businesses are in.

"It's a tough situation there," Landers said.

Baxter said he has informed his regular customers of his intention to leave. He said they are "bummed," but also supportive.

"Everyone's encouraging though and hoping we'll find another location," Baxter said.


sickofitall 9 years, 9 months ago

It's time to move on. This town is turning into Vail. The billionaires are running off the millionaires. I'll be living in the next developing area until that gets too big. "Steamboat Springs, Just Build it!"


RoxyDad 9 years, 9 months ago

I am deeply saddened by the departure of Dos Amigos. Over the years I have had many great times there and have brought friends from all over the country to Dos Amigos. When you move please be on the bus route so I can continue to visit your business. I feel the pain of the business owners of Ski Time Square, who knows what will happen. I wish all the business owners in Ski Time Square the best of luck in the future.


Jean 9 years, 9 months ago

ahh...developers, you gotta love them.. I feel bad for all of those whose business has been hurt. Sbs isn't turning into is worse than that. I say get out while you can!!!!


worktoski 9 years, 9 months ago

Good luck to all the business owners and employees in Ski Time Square. I hope everything works out well for you all - wherever you end up.

I have been visiting Steamboat since I was a little girl. I loved the casual friendly feel. Now that things are changing, I'm looking for the 'next' Steamboat. Does anyone have suggestions on where to go??


Dan 9 years, 9 months ago

You can't blame Gary although it is sad to see it go. Spent many good times at the bar with Wolf & friends when I used to live in town. Any plans of relocating within Steamboat?


LookoutJoe 9 years, 9 months ago

this pisses me off completely. i've worked for Baxter at Dos, and i can say for the workers and the customers it was nothing but a fun time. these developers have NO RESPECT for this town. i know they have to make houses for the new folk to live in, and that doesnt bother me too much, but when the developers start to run old businesses out that have deep roots in this town, i cant help but be mad as hell.


bcpow 9 years, 9 months ago

We are just getting Telluraped and Aspenized.


cheez77 9 years, 9 months ago

Let's face it: Cafritz and the Atira Group are just Wal-Mart for the Vail-Aspen sociodemographic. They come in, profit, destroy a community, and then move on. You can see it starting now with the forcing out of the businesses who give Steamboat it's charm and identity.

I am not a lawyer so I don't know if any of what follows is legally possible. These are just some crazy ideas to fight wreckless developers in only place that matters to them--the bottom line!

  1. The displaced business owners and the residents of Steamboat Springs should force the city to pass an ordinance establishing a 10-15% (or higher) "development zone tax" in a zone isolated to the shiny new Ski Times Square when it re-opens.

  2. The citiznes of the should force the city of Steamboat Springs to establish a second ordinance creating a fee for every advertisement that uses the terms "Mount Warner" or "Steamboat Springs." that the developers or owners of businesses in Ski-Time Square produce.

Good Luck in Saving Yourselves Steamboat!


cheez77 9 years, 9 months ago

Or, more simplely as a bumper sticker I saw yesterday read "Save an elk, shoot a land developer!"


spukomy 9 years, 9 months ago

RIP: Brauns, Sabres, Hilltop, Outlaws, Pancellis, Dos, Levels, Tugboat, Luops, Wired, Jade Summit, Golden Q, Mothers, Butcher's. Glory Days are gone. Vail II is here.


upstream 9 years, 9 months ago

I've always appreciated the role Dos has played as a meeting spot and stomping ground for longtime locals. Sorta seems like the "Steamboat Local" is soon to be a thing of the past as the boat becomes just another contrived theme town for tourists. Long, long time ago I chose this over a dozen other skitowns because, unlike the others, Steamboat was a real town with real history that happened to have some sweet skiing. Forget about it- now it's just a big put on to bring in tourists and make them think they are in the wild west...Gag. My thought here is to suggest that Baxter and the Dos crew make their way to south routt- where real locals are still living real day to day, down to earth lives. We'd sure love to have you recreate your gathering place down Oak Creek way! Instead of viewing the drop in business we experience over winter as a negative- think of it as your chance to finally really indulge in ski season. Awww- come on know you want to!


ChoosePeace 9 years, 9 months ago

The pilot has made the impression that business on the mountain is like a ghost-town. This is false. Locals and visitors alike pack the restaurants and shops every day and night in the Torian Plaza. This is the best kept secret in Steamboat! Please let people know that there is convenient easy underground parking in the Torian garage all summer long, and a construction free garden oasis that is accessible to everyone.


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