Road to Recovery: Brewery to offer gondola car dining experience

The past six months have been a rollercoaster ride for Mountain Tap Brewery owners Wendy and Rich Tucciarone. They have made several changes including strengthening their to-go and takeout business, shifting to a QR code for menus and adding gondola cars for outdoor seating in the winter months.
John F. Rusell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The owners of the Mountain Tap Brewery in downtown Steamboat Springs will add three gondola cars to their patio this fall hoping to offer a unique dining experience while adding more space for customers.

“It’s been a pretty big roller coaster to say the least,” Rich Tucciarone, Mountain Tap Brewery brewmaster and co-owner, said of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. “Going into winter is daunting. We need to have a little fun with it. We think this unique concept of utilizing our outdoor patio for additional seating in gondola cabins is going to provide us and our guests with that fun factor, while also keeping everyone safely distanced.”

When the pandemic first swept across the country in mid-March, it shut the doors of his brewery, which he owns with his wife, Wendy, and business partner Jeff Goodhand. At the time, Mountain Tap was enjoying a record year.

“It’s not like the faucet slowed down, it was a hard stop,” Rich said. “Then we pivoted to takeout to go for the remainder of March, April, May. We had a lot of regulars that were supporting us through that time, which was great, but with that said, April and May were probably 10% or 15% of our usual revenue.”

Mountain Tap also began offering pizza kits that allowed customers to finish the pizza baking process at home.

Many of the changes remained in place even after the doors of the business reopened earlier this summer.

“We simplified the menu and focused on the things that most people order,” Wendy said. “We also simplified our front of house since the bartenders could no longer have a bar full of customers.”

These days the staff rotates positions and pools tips.

“What that has done is really created a great team, because there’s no hierarchy that sometimes happens in restaurants,” she said. “Everybody works together.”

During the time the business was closed, the Tucciarones and Goodhand focused on sanitation and cleaning procedures so that when the business reopened there would be procedures in place that would keep staff and customers safe. It also gave the owners an opportunity to figure out how to place tables for the best use of the space and that is when they came up with the idea for the gondola car seating.

The gondola cabins came from Killington Ski Area in Vermont.

“They are going to be heated and lit and will have a Bluetooth speaker so that the customers can play their own tunes,” Wendy said.

The gondola cars will feature the original bench seating, new flooring and a custom-fitted table with room for up to eight diners. Rich said Mountain Tap is working with the city of Steamboat Springs to permanently permit the use of the gondolas on the patio in the winter. Rich said there will be a minimum order required to be seated in the cabins.

In addition, the business is looking for other ways to expand outdoor seating, including adding heaters in the fall and spring.

“More than half of our summer seating is outdoors on the patio,” said Goodhand, who also serves as general manager. “Space and seating are always limiting factors in the wintertime, even without restrictions. Throughout the pandemic, we have focused on the good that can come out of it. With challenges come opportunities, and we’re super excited to welcome guests to a totally new experience this winter.”

Mountain Tap also shifted to a QR code, so guests could access the menu from their phones.

“Right now, every week that we’re open we are happy that we have another week of revenue to get us through whatever comes next,” Wendy said. “Hopefully, we just stay open, even in this limited capacity, and we get through the year and then maybe by next summer things will look a lot better.”

The Road to Recovery series is part of the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s ongoing efforts to report on how COVID-19 is impacting Steamboat Springs and Routt County. This series is supported in part by a grant from Google’s Journalism Emergency Relief Fund.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

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