Economy, changing ownerships affect Oak Creek restaurants |

Economy, changing ownerships affect Oak Creek restaurants

Zach Fridell

— The “Blights of the Round Table,” as several Oak Creek locals jokingly call themselves, are being bounced from restaurant to restaurant as eateries in the town change hours, owners and menus to cope with the economic downturn.

Gathered around a table at Dinty Moore’s Family Restaurant on Thursday, the group of regulars who gather for morning coffee said they had to move across the street from their usual perch at the Colorado Bar & Grill because the bar had closed for mud season.

Saturday was the last day for the group to sit around Dinty Moore’s table, too, as the restaurant held its final food-serving shifts under owner Tina Zywicki. When her lease came up for renewal, Zywicki said, she decided she had had enough.

“My lease was up, and I got thinking about it. I’ve been cooking for 12 years, and I’m just burnt out,” she said.

The building next will hold The Oak, a restaurant that received a liquor license from the Oak Creek Town Board on Thursday evening.

Everything inside Dinty Moore’s is for sale through Tuesday.

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Zywicki said the economic slump made business difficult, but the restaurant was sustainable.

“It’s been hard, but we’ve been getting through,” she said. The restaurant primarily employs Zywicki’s family members.

Up the street at Black Mountain Tavern, owner Douglas Diamond said the recession has forced him to cut back everything he can. Staff, menu offerings and hours of operation all have been sliced as much as possible to help the restaurant make it through the slump. He eliminated four staff positions and has stopped serving lunch. He said he will not offer pizza until early May because the few pizzas served per night don’t

justify the cost of the propane to operate the oven.

“There’s nobody working the construction trade around here. That was our lunch (crowd),” he said. “And turning on all those ovens for five or six lunches, it didn’t make sense.”

Lonely shifts

Diamond, who now is Black Mountain’s sole owner, often is the only worker in the kitchen, he said. He employs one bartender and two waitresses – one waitress per shift. The business now is open from 3 p.m. to close Tuesdays through Saturdays, and closed Sundays and Mondays.

He also has amended his menu to include several $6.50 options. Steak is off the menu because no one was ordering it.

Even with the cutbacks and layoffs, Diamond said he’s sure the restaurant where he’s worked for five years will pull through the recession, relying on previous profits and management.

“We’re not going back to where we were, but I think we’ve hit the bottom,” he said. “I’m optimistic. Being a restaurant owner, I’ve got to be optimistic.”

Chelsea’s Restaurant has reduced hours for mud season, along with the Colorado Bar.

Travis Blare, who took over the operation of Judy’s Country Donuts and Bakery at the beginning of April, also is using optimism to expand the business.

The shop lengthened hours of operation under the direction of Blare’s wife, Lia.

The store now will be open Sundays, which the previous owners did not do, and Blare said he hopes to become “the Krispy Kreme of Routt County.”

The shop also distributes to convenience stores, construction companies and the Yampa Valley Medical Center each morning.

Jane Sindell, owner of The Mugshot, said she is putting the business up for sale without any intention of closing the restaurant.

She said she’s talked to one potential buyer, but she will continue to run the business as usual as long as she can. She has owned the shop for four years and worked there for eight.

“I had a very slow winter. A lot of people want to save their money, and I can’t blame them,” she said. “I can’t close it. It’s not really an option.”

In the meantime, Eugene Germain, who described his morning coffee group as the “Blights of the Round Table,” said he and his friends always will be able to find a table in Oak Creek.

“There’s always places to go,” he said.