Carl’s Tavern has new owners
June 20, 2017
Carl's Tavern will reopen under new ownership early next week.
The restaurant at the corner of Seventh and Yampa streets, which is named after Carl Howelsen, the Norwegian ski jumping champion who brought skiing to Steamboat, has been shuttered since April when former owner Collin Kelley closed its doors prior to the sale of the business and its real estate on the bottom floor of the Howelsen Place development.
The business transaction was finalized Friday, June 16 with Scott Engelman and David Jones, who co-own Truffle Pig at the base of Steamboat Ski Area, purchasing the restaurant that has anchored the east end of Yampa Street since Carl’s first opened in April 2011.
Carl’s features a horseshoe-shaped bar with nine high-definition TVs for sports enthusiasts as well as the "Antler Room" with everything from darts to shuffleboard to pool and booths. The restaurant’s gastro pub fare ranges from "The Business," a local spin of poutine, and a variety chicken wing flavors to filet mignon.
"We like the concept, we like the menu and we like the whole vibe down there as far as the restaurant goes," Engelman said. "It's a go-to spot that's very approachable both from a menu selection and price standpoint. We want to keep it Carl's, but we can take some of the expertise that we have at Truffle Pig with our chef and myself and apply it to the needs of Carl's to help it evolve into what we believe it can be."
Engelman and Jones don't want to make Carl's Tavern into another Truffle Pig. It’s their vision to forge fresh relationships with vendors and staff and generally retain Carl's Tavern atmosphere and food while making strategic changes that will enable them to execute food out of the small kitchen in a more timely manner.
"Collin has done a great job creating a concept that has a lot of people going to it, and it's doing relatively well revenue wise," Engelman said. "We think we can step it up a couple notches and make it more profitable and make it a better environment for both the staff and the customers."
Since opening the restaurant in the spring of 2011, Kelley created many memories over the years from Kentucky Derby parties to Carl’s five-year anniversary party, which involved cooking over 2,000 chicken wings with live music from the Old Town Pickers – one of the first bands to play there and the last.
Kelley said he chose to sell the restaurant so that he could have more time with his kids following his recent divorce.
"I put everything I had — my heart and soul — into that place," Kelley said. "I will miss Steamboat and want to thank everyone for nearly seven years of support. I'm proud to leave behind something that will hopefully be part of Steamboat's legacy for years to come."
Kelley said he will be moving to Denver to be an active father and plans to try something outside of the restaurant business.
Jones, a well-known St. Louis restaurateur, opened Truffle Pig in 2010. In 2013, Engelman joined Jones as his operating partner.
Engelman has an extensive background in the hotel and food and beverage industry, with experience working at Club Med to The Little Nell in Aspen. He also opened hotels in Miami and Las Vegas for the Hyatt hotel chain and also served as corporate director of food and beverage for Luxury Resorts (The Blackstone Group).
With an understanding of Steamboat's seasonality, labor force and winter and summer clientele, Engelman said he and Jones were able to shape Truffle Pig into the restaurant it is today. Since taking over, he said minor adjustments to the business model resulted in Truffle Pig’s sales increasing 120 percent and employee turnover decreasing to an historic low.
After stabilizing operations at Truffle Pig, the business partners were looking for restaurant opportunities downtown as a way to create a business balance.
"Acquiring Carl's and having a location downtown gives us some advantages operationally and allows us the resources of tapping into a different season and market," Jones said.
Jones said having the restaurant close before the purchase allowed for a clean break in operations.
Currently, Engelman said they are working on cleaning the restaurant, making repairs and conducting training with the staff prior to the doors re-opening next week.
"We don't want the clientele to feel alienated by the changes," Engelman said. "We want them to embrace the changes as something that will enhance the experience at Carl's. It's not our intention to reinvent the wheel, we just want to make it better. It doesn't matter what business you're looking at, anything can be improved upon."