Staff members hang out at the Tugboat Grill & Pub while preparing for an evening rush last winter. Owners have confirmed that the bar will be open this winter.

File photo

Staff members hang out at the Tugboat Grill & Pub while preparing for an evening rush last winter. Owners have confirmed that the bar will be open this winter.

Tugboat is staying afloat

Ski Time Square spot escapes wrecking claw for another winter


— Steamboat's landmark ski town bar, the Tugboat Grill & Pub, will live to see its 36th winter after all.

"We've agreed to a month-to month lease for this winter and are exploring a longer arrangement," co-owner Larry Lamb said Thursday.

Involved parties had a 90-minute meeting on the subject Wednesday.

The Tugboat, a fixture at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area since New Year's Eve 1972, was due to be torn down with the rest of Ski Time Square this summer and fall. However, Mark Mathews, Vice President of Development for the Atira Group, confirmed his company intends to allow the Tugboat to remain standing as the only surviving business in Ski Time Square, pending its redevelopment plans.

"What we're looking at is their ability to definitely stay through this season," Mathews said.

In late winter 2007-08, the Tugboat's owners were facing the possibility that the bar would be torn down by the end of August. Mathews said his company is aware of the role the Tugboat plays in the economy at the base of the ski area.

"In our conversations with neighbors and (Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.), we heard concerns about not having the commercial activity and, particularly, the evening entertainment," he said. "The Tugboat is a big part of that. We look at it as benefiting the entire base area."

Lamb said he and co-owner Hank Edwards are making an investment in the infrastructure necessary to allow the Tugboat to remain in place as a free-standing building, even after the attached structures around it are torn down.

Mathews agreed that step was a key to allowing the Tugboat to carry on.

"It was when we saw the opportunity for it to remain as a stand-alone business that discussions began," Mathews said.

A place of local lore

Washington, D.C.,-based Cafritz Interests engaged with the Atira Group to develop the property. Atira already was involved in the city planning process with an unrelated project, Edgemont, on the opposite side of the base area.

Cafritz, also a development group, purchased the Thunderhead Lodge and Ski Time Square for $53.9 million in late April 2007. Thunderhead and buildings in the square date to 1968.

The Tugboat could be described as a rowdy ski history museum. A point of origin for many enduring Steamboat legends, its walls are plastered with photographs of local and national celebrities and athletes.

The walls also hold many pieces of sports memorabilia, each with a story to tell. Many Steamboat locals have specified in their wills that their wake should be held at "The Tugger."

Atira Group does not expect to begin construction on the Tugboat site, or for that matter anywhere else in Ski Time Square or at the related Thunderhead Lodge site, this winter.

Steamboat residents can expect to see the current demolition work cleaned up and the perimeters secured, Mathews said. As part of Atira's sustainable building efforts, Mathews said, the parking lot concrete now being broken up will not be hauled to the landfill. Instead, it will be ground into base material that will provide a staging surface for construction next year.

Atira is optimistic it will obtain its final approval from the city before the end of the year, and it will move a sales trailer onto a portion of the site this winter, Mathews said. Construction activity will not continue through the winter.

Mathews said the first vertical construction that would take place next summer is the redevelopment of the Thunderhead Lodge site.


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