By John Colson
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
It looks as though Basalt’s loss will be Carbondale’s gain, as plans jell for the opening of Butch’s Lobster Shack on a now-vacant lot at the corner of Second and Main streets, possibly within a couple of weeks.
Butch Darden, who has been in the restaurant business in the Roaring Fork Valley since 1979, confirmed to The Sopris Sun on Monday that he has reached an agreement to lease the lot, owned by Bren Simon, that until recently was occupied by a construction trailer linked to the development of the Marble Distilling Company and Distillery Inn.
The distillery is located two doors east on Main from the Lobster Shack’s planned site.
Darden said he has not dealt directly with Simon, but has been working through an intermediary. Simon is the widow of the late billionaire Mel Simon, shopping center developer from Indiana, who owns a house just outside Carbondale and reportedly lists the town as home to the Melvin and Bren Simon Foundation.
The Lobster Shack, which operated in Basalt from about 2003 until last year, ran into trouble earlier this year when the Basalt Downtown Business Association haggled with Darden over his continued use of his site, which is where the town’s former recycling center was located.
Just as that problem seemed to be reaching a resolution, which would have allowed Darden to reopen for the summer season, the Eagle County Health Department informed him that his restaurant was considered a permanent structure rather than a self-contained food wagon, and required him to spend approximately $7,000 for a sewer hookup, according to published reports.
Darden balked, noting that he had spent a considerable amount of money upgrading his mobile shack and eating area last year.
When the Basalt town council last week voted against helping him out with the sewer hookup, he backed away from further involvement and started looking elsewhere, Darden told The Sopris Sun.
A friend suggested he consider the Simon lot (in Carbondale), he said, and the deal was hatched.
Now, all that remains is to get his paperwork taken care of with the town, which he said should be “soon, probably within 10 days.”
Darden said he will be offering the same menu as he has historically, which includes such seafood delicacies as shrimp, fried clams, calamari, lobster rolls, crab cakes, oysters on the half shell, clam chowder, clams on the half shell, Maine lobsters, and possibly the return of king crabs.
Noting that he has had some recent success with broiled dishes, he said he plans to continue in that vein, offering both fried and broiled dishes depending on customer tastes.
And the king crab?
“I might be offering king crab, because it’s coming down in price,” he said, noting that in recent years the price of red king crab climbed so high he would end up selling it for just what he paid for it, without making any profit.
Darden said he has been checking out Carbondale and likes what he sees, particularly the proximity between his lot and the nearby distillery.
“Whatever can draw people down to that area can certainly benefit everyone down there,” he said of the east end of Main Street.
“And I think I’ll draw some people, too,” he added, a reference to the popularity of his cuisine starting with a small oyster bar in the legendary Tippler bar in Aspen in 1979, and the loyal customer base that moved with him when he ran Butch’s Lobster Bar in Snowmass Village for 18 years.
Published in The Sopris Sun on July 2, 2015.