Tugboat Grill & Pub auction spreads ski town memories far, wide
September 11, 2013
Steamboat Springs — The auction at The Tugboat Grill & Pub on Wednesday at times felt like a reunion, a funeral or walking through a friend's home while they were away.
More than 200 people showed up to bid on the items in the iconic ski pub, which was seized by the Colorado Department of Revenue for nonpayment of taxes.
Plenty more people showed up to spectate and reminisce about the pub and Larry Lamb and Hank Edwards' tenure as its owners.
Despite the feelings those in attendance had for the Tugboat, this was an auction. And according to auctioneer Buster Cattles, there are no friends at an auction.
That might not have been quite true of the crowd at the Tugboat, but not even Lamb was immune from competing bids for some of the memorabilia that lined the walls of the pub.
Many of the photos with signatures and messages from athletes, entertainers, celebrities and other Steamboat characters were addressed to Lamb and Edwards.
Some bidders were of a single mind in getting the one, specific memento that best conjured images of happier times at the Tugboat. Others were there to retrieve personal memories that had been housed there. Some were just fishing for a piece of the pub to call their own.
Richie Imperato was trying to buy back some animal mounts that he shot as a teenager but faced competition from another man who was trying to take home all the mounts in the place.
Imperato was especially keen to buy back a wildebeest head he said he shot in Tanzania when he was 19 years old.
The wildebeest is the 13th largest on record, he said. "Winston Churchill is on the list behind me, and he can't catch up."
Imperato expressed his objection to the competing bidder to no avail, and the price of the head mount rose to $440. Cattles, the auctioneer, was aware of Imperato's frustration with the situation and said he'd split the cost of the mount with Imperato. But, Cattles said, Imperato was on his own for the rest of the mounts that were shot by him.
When Kier Delaney saw that the photo of Michael Jordan skiing was addressed to Two Dogs, he had to have it. It cost him $200, but it was worth it for Delaney to have the photo addressed to the man who taught him how to ski and was best friends with his brother, Chris, who passed away in 2000.
David Zedeck met his wife, Gina, at the bar at the Tugboat. He knew what the best memento of that moment would be: the back door of the Tugboat.
In a surprise move, Zedeck asked for the door to be auctioned and was able to get it for $2,400. "The Tugboat Saloon" with its familiar type is carved into the door that's marked as being shaped by Steamboat's Don Woodsmith.
As part of the deal, Zedeck had to find a replacement door by the following morning but was back before the auction ended with a carpenter and removed his prize in the rain.
Leslie Vesper was able to retrieve a photo of her daughter posing with a prize from a hunt that hung above the dining room when Cattles again stepped in to help someone hold on to a special moment.
Molly Goldberg worked at the Tugboat for 1 1/2 years when Lamb and Edwards owned it and a winter for the subsequent owner, Jim Beatty.
The Tugboat was her first job in Steamboat, and she was hired three days after moving to town.
"I remember being really excited because it was the Tugboat," Goldberg said.
She said she didn't really care about the beer signs she bought but just wanted something to remember the place.
Some items might start popping up in other Steamboat watering holes. A color photo of Larry Kaminski in his Broncos uniform and center's stance could end up on the walls of Carl's Tavern. A large, vintage "Drink Budweiser" sign that sat behind the Tugboat's stage should find a new home on the mountain.
While the physical tokens of Tugboat memories no longer will live in one place, their spread across Steamboat and beyond will give the bar's old-timers and regulars stories to tell whenever they spot a relic.
The auction, which lasted more than five hours, ended up totaling $31,720, far beyond the $10,846 owed to the state and enough to cover the $13,516 owed to the city of Steamboat Springs. It also trumped the starting bulk bid of $15,000 offered by Jerry Burden on behalf of a group of investors. The bulk bid for the entire business would only have taken effect if the total of the piecemeal bids was less than $15,000.
As the auction wound down, screwdrivers were passed around for winners to remove their prizes, and the walls began to look uncharacteristically bare. Lamb had a growing stack of picture frames on a stool near the bar. Near the back door that now had a plain replacement, he unscrewed a row of photos above the window and along with it a photo of he and Edwards from 1977 in front of the Tugboat when they got into business together.