The Tugboat Grill & Pub in Ski Town Square is one of many businesses that will be forced to relocate or close permanently next summer when the area is demolished.

Photo by Brian Ray

The Tugboat Grill & Pub in Ski Town Square is one of many businesses that will be forced to relocate or close permanently next summer when the area is demolished.

Ski Time Square businesses prepare for final season



The Tugboat Grill & Pub in Ski Town Square is one of many businesses that will be forced to relocate or close permanently next summer when the area is demolished.


The Butcher Shop owner Bill Gardner spent last week readying his restaurant for one last opening day. Like many other longtime Ski Time Square businesses, The Butcher Shop is poised to close and be demolished in 2008.

— The pending end is bittersweet for The Butcher Shop owner Bill Gardner, who spent last week readying his restaurant for one last opening day.

Like many other longtime Ski Time Square businesses, The Butcher Shop is poised to close and be demolished in 2008 after serving a mix of locals and tourists for decades. The demolitions will make room for new development around the base of the Steamboat Ski Area.

While opening day for the slopes has been pushed back to Nov. 30, The Butcher Shop opened Thursday, because Gardner had promised seasonal regulars from across the country that he would be there to serve their families on Thanksgiving Day.

While making final preparations Wednesday, Gardner proudly brought out a yellowed newspaper clipping announcing the opening of his restaurant. The clip is dated Sept. 2, 1971.

Little has changed in the restaurant since its grand opening, and the interior still harkens back to an old west steakhouse from days gone by. Gardner sat in front of a fireplace, underneath pairs of antlers and snowshoes hung on the wood-paneled walls, as employees bustled about readying place settings for their first meals of the season.

"All the stuff we've added through the years is mementos of people who have worked here," Gardner said.

Gardner raised his family in Steamboat Springs, and although he is unsure what he will do after The Butcher Shop is no more, he plans to remain in the area.

Gardner has played an entrepreneurial role in a number of local businesses throughout the years, many of which no longer exist, including the Harbor Hotel, the Clocktower, the Octagon building, and Steamboat's first discothÃque, which has since become The Inferno.

He learned last spring that the 2007-08 ski season would be The Butcher Shop's last at Ski Time Square, after its buildings and Thunderhead Lodge were sold for $53.9 million to Cafritz Interests, a Washington, D.C.-based real estate developer. Cafritz, along with Colorado-based developer The Atira Group, plans to demolish Ski Time Square sometime next year.

Departures from Ski Time Square have already begun - news of the sale combined with construction woes in the area this summer contributed to Dos Amigos closing in September after 32 years in operation.

The remaining Ski Time Square tenants are currently biding their time, waiting for their 180-day notices to vacate.

Longtime Ski Time Square tenant Tugboat Grill and Pub is trying to go about business as usual, but co-owner Larry Lamb said keeping up employees' spirits has been difficult.

"It's been kind of hard with the uncertainty," said Lamb, who has been with the Tugboat since it opened its doors 36 years ago.

While the Tugboat is considering relocating or becoming a part of the new development, Lamb said there is no guarantee for its future.

Steamboat Trading Co. expects to open this week in advance of the mountain, and it will close its doors at the end of ski season after catering to tourists for a quarter of a century.

Knowing that his days in Ski Time Square are numbered has complicated merchandising for owner Erich Esswein.

"I've kind of got to get it just right - have enough to get through the season and turn a profit, but have nothing on the shelves at the end of the season," Esswein said.

Business owners are dreading the day next year they will see decades of their personal history - and Steamboat's legacy - reduced to rubble.

"It's a shame to see that that's the type of attitude these new investors have," said Daryl Levin, who works as a chef at The Butcher Shop. Levin has worked there for seven years, but has resided in the Yampa Valley and known Gardner for more than three decades.

Concerns about the impending demolition are more than just worries about personal livelihoods. Many tenants said losing the shops, bars and restaurants in Ski Time Square will leave a hole on the mountain that will take years to fill.

"The mountain, the ski area, the industry is going to be devoid of a lot of services that people are used to having," Lamb said. "They don't seem to see the need to do everything in stages, they just want to bulldoze everything."

Levin said he sees Ski Time Square as an "icon" in the Yampa Valley.

"To us, this is a special valley, and we have fought tooth and nail over the years to maintain prosperity and the heritage of the valley," Levin said. "It's been a battle, fighting against the essence of profit."

"Don't get me wrong, it's still special," he said. "But it's changing."


RoxyDad 9 years, 5 months ago

Something must be done by City Council to maintain restaurants and bars at the Mountain Area.

This is a major draw for tourists to the mountain, they don't want to take a bus to town for fun. (if there will be a bus available)


STEMBOATwannabe 9 years, 5 months ago

When will they cancel the bus to Ski Times Square?


jeep 9 years, 5 months ago

they just want to bulldoze everything." Cook-Cafritz,Atira Group,demolish Ski Time Square demolish steamboat, just to make a buck for who? these old farts


little_liza 9 years, 5 months ago

Within my seven years of working primarly front desk jobs in town I am continually asked does this place or that still exist. Our income is primarily based upon touist, that we can all agree on. I would much rather have the same people vactation here year after year because they know what to expect, than have a newby visit town and never come back again out of disapointment. I was saddened to see Sugar Run disappear as well as the winter tubing on headwall. I can only begin to imagine what I will feel like upon the holes in Ski Time square that were once filled by some of my favorite places to hang out. Hopefully, next year when a tourist asks whether or not the Tugboat or Butchershop are still in existance I will be able to direct them to a new location full of all of the things they love and remember.


little_liza 9 years, 5 months ago

In the article, "The remaining Ski Time Square tenants are currently biding their time, waiting for their 180-day notices to vacate." Why does noone seem to know when all of this should take place? Or, what is going to be built? Is it a secret plan?


thecondoguy1 9 years, 5 months ago

good riddance, these building are not in much better condition than the octagons were, obsolete and dangerous, change is good........................


STEMBOATwannabe 9 years, 5 months ago

We love you Tugboat. If you move somewhere else... we will follow.

StS will never be the same.... however they re-incarnate a facimile of it. Hopefully Steamboat will survive and be an even cooler, more hip place to hang out in the snow.


Brian Smith 9 years, 5 months ago


Good attitude. Your right, maybe we will all survive the construction and Steamboat will even be better. Would love to see some of these business's hang on and reopen if they can. As for the new development, I keep imagining that it will be similar to Copper, maybe not, but Copper has a really nice base area, bars, restaurants etc. It would be nice to see some kind of plans.


ldwalter12 9 years, 5 months ago

Truthfully, something has to be done to stay competitive. Keystone, Mammouth, Park City (all places I have visited since leaving Steamboat) have the base area in Steamboat beat hands down. Nicer facilities, new shiny buildings, just far better all around.

In 1972 when I first came to Steamboat, the base/Ski Times Square area was like that. 30+ years later it is old, and tacky, compared to the competition.


kingsride 9 years, 5 months ago

I second the good riddance condo guy. Maybe we can get some establishments with some class. All ski time square bars have produced is loud obnoxious overserved puking drunks. Adios


RoxyDad 9 years, 5 months ago


There have been thousands of people over the years that have loved the tugBoat and other Ski Time Sq. establishments. Sorry your such a angry person.

I think I would like to go to the tugboat tonight and then puke on you. Adios


Jorgy 9 years, 5 months ago

Having been in business in Steamboat during the 70's, I have always enjoyed my annual trips with my family telling the stories about back in the day when.............. And the village at the mountain was always a center piece of those stories. I will miss the mountain as it once was very much. But then, Steamboat is not the same as it once was. It used to be genuine, with people who had character and generations of history associated with the town. Now, the town is a haven for yuppies, complete with all the homes that are more a monument to someone's ego than a mountain home. Most of the original locals are gone, unable in their retirement to pay the increased property taxes. The town is no longer the Steamboat Springs I once knew. Perhaps they should name it "Plastic Springs".


STEMBOATwannabe 9 years, 5 months ago

Steamboat if it wants to stay competitive does need to update/upgrade certain areas.

Drive over to Vail... wow!
They have totally redone the Lionshead area. Now they have started to redo Vail Village. But who can afford it? Not locals. Not with price tags over 10 mil for an upper level condo.

Steamboat is still attractive in many areas.... Great town. Fabulous Skiing. When the dust is settled from all the re-construction, hopefully Steamboat will even be more attractive!

Hopefully all the businesses will be able to find affordable locations to keep the ambiance alive!


deluxeeverything 9 years, 5 months ago

Plastic Springs, huh? Well, aren't you bold. There are in fact alot of genuine-fun-loving-kind people still residing in Steamboat... some of these "like-ables" (nice word huh?) grew up here, some are transplants, who cares really? Good people are good people. History travels. And although the "yuppies'' as you called them, would like you to think that they are what Steamboat is all about, they in fact seem to make up a small percentage. Try Vail or Aspen for plastic.


freerider 9 years, 5 months ago

you can't stop corporate surgery in this always wins out...what I would like to know is what the #uck is the planning commision going to do about the frekin traffic problem...Ive lived here since 1972 and they have never had any vision about anything....pathetic lousy politicians...put in a year here and there and then leave the problems for the next smuck to run for the 700 club is going to ruin the west end of town...anybody else have to deal with that messed up intersection by 7-11 in the morning...geeez ...yeah let's put more housing out it's a hit...don't give me that dooogooody good bull$hit


shovelhead 9 years, 5 months ago

As a frequent visitor to your area, it seems to me that most of you consider StSp an elite area, when compared to Vail or Aspen. As one person once said to me, People with the real money come to Steamboat. Yet the people seem to be jealous of all the attention Aspen and Vail get.But not to worry, I'm sure you'll achieve that elite status you desire .


another_local 9 years, 5 months ago

Jorgy, "original" locals depends on when you were here doesn't it. I guess your friends are gone, but there are still plenty of folks that have been here a while. My mother's friends are mostly gone now (not all though) being that they are 70+ years old. There has always been a process of crowds arriving in their 20s and filtering down to the few that succeed making a life here, but that is a natural process in a market like this. The simple truth is that there are a lot of pretty low level jobs that need to be filled and only a very small number of higher level jobs.

BTW, despite our whining about property taxes, they are still quite low here. That is not a factor in folks leaving.


stompk 9 years, 5 months ago

How could anybody possibly want to change a thing about the Tugboat.

Every town has it's bar that it's known for. The Tugboat and the Boat go hand in hand.

Fight em Larry!


Scott Wedel 9 years, 5 months ago

What no one is saying is that Cafritz/Atira are doing this to play hardball with the City Council. They are not going to allow their development plans be considered in terms of keeping the present situation or new development. They are framing the choice to either be stinking hole in the ground or their new development. And any modifications or delays just means the longer that tourists will see a stinking hole.

And it was from that sort of people that the previous City Council purchased Iron Horse.


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