The Brass Ass is Back in Leadville
Golden Burro to Re-Open June 1
Historic Harrison Avenue is one of Colorado’s most iconic main streets. For dozens of decades, businesses have come and gone along Leadville’s downtown business corridor. In many ways it can be considered a living, breathing entity as entrepreneurs roll the dice on another brick-and-mortar gem hoping their great idea will be the next best thing in America’s highest city.
And so it goes for one of Leadville’s most iconic eateries as the historic Golden Burro Café, 710 Harrison Avenue, was sold on April 16 with an anticipated re-opening of June 1, 2021.
“We’ve almost taken it down to the studs. We’ve replaced almost all the equipment in the kitchen. The booths, and the flooring, and the ceiling, all are being redone,” said Marcee Lundeen, who took ownership of The Golden Burro with her husband Dan last month. The couple hails from Houston, TX but has been invested in the Lake County area for a while. They bought a second home in Beaver Lakes Estates in 2012 where they lived for five years eventually selling that and buying a house up on Chicken Hill where they have been residing full time in Leadville since last June.
For locals, the Chicken Hill irony does not go unnoticed as word of the new plant-based, vegan menu began to hit the streets. Because it’s exactly the old chicken/egg controversy that has tongues wagging regarding the meat and dairy-free menu offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
“We will not be serving any meat. It will be a plant-based menu,” the new owner explained, “so different types of potatoes, pasta, vegetables.”
The plant-based foodie trend has been around for a few years as more and more Americans move away from meat and dairy-centered meals towards a diet with more fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. But the Lundeens might already be ready to bend one culinary restriction on the plant-based trend. In fact, eggs could be making an appearance on the menu.
“We are considering eggs if we can find a cage-free, happy chicken supplier.” The culinary team is actively looking to connect chicken farmers who fall into this category. Contact them at the restaurant.
“We know it’s created some controversy,” said Marcee Lundeen, referring to some online comments about the new plant-based culinary trend coming to Leadville. “But give us a chance.”
But old west mining towns like Leadville were built on folks taking chances. For the Lundeens that roll of the dice comes with a sizeable up-front remodeling investment in the eatery giving it a fresh new 1950s diner feel.
“The booth seating will come back, but they will not be the same style booths.” The same design style is anticipated for the back banquet room. But there’s also a surprise in store for long-timers who may remember the painting that spanned the south wall.
“We plan on bringing that aspen mural back to life,” Lundeen explained. The Brass Ass Saloon will also be re-opened complete with bartender and small-bite service. In addition, almost all of the kitchen equipment has been replaced.
However, it will likely be the exterior plans that will prompt the most discussion.
“The awning will come down,” stated Lundeen.” We have found pictures from the 1950s where there is no awning.” While the removal of the shader for the sidewalk pavers might align with the diner-feel design concept, it will also let in a flood of afternoon sunlight! The yellow panels that frame the exterior door to the Brass Ass Saloon will be opened up because they are actually windows that have been painted over.
As part of the historic district, The Golden Burro will need to present any change to the historic preservation folks in order to receive a Certificate of Appropriateness. They are scheduled to do so on Tuesday, May 11.
Replace the broken glass tiles on the front and strip off the yellow paint from the windows surrounding the entryway to the Brass Ass Saloon.
The SA-Weet Leadville Connection
Another musical Leadville Connection was stitched together as Leadville Today was putting together this story about the new owners of The Golden Burro. This time it would be extra sweet when it was revealed that the Burro’s new pastry chef served as Metallica’s James Hetfield’s personal chef when the rocker first moved his family to the Vail Valley in 2013. Word around the local hood from neighborly feasts rave that this guy knows his sauces and syrups. And anyone who can properly bake at 10,200 feet is in a league all their own. But its worth noting that it’s not the first time that the Golden Burro has bridged a solid Leadville Connection to the international music scene.
In fact, during a little-known sliver of its past, in between the past two owners from 1993-97, The Golden Burro was also known as the hippie hangout. Leadville’s music venues were barely hanging on through the latest bust cycle, however the new owners were a young couple with connections to some of the state’s best tour bands. And when those headliners would come up and play the neighboring resorts of Vail and Breckenridge, they would tack on an extra night and come and play the Burro.
During this short-lived chapter, owner Dudley Duel brought some great headliners up to America’s highest city from Leftover Salmon, to legendary bluesman Bobby Dixon, to what Grateful Dead cover band was getting the those dreaded broomsticks skirts spinning on the dancefloor.
But it would be one of Colorado’s favorite bands that memorialize that brief chapter with the instrumental hit “Dudley’s Kitchen” which still played in sets around the country. It’s homage to the former owners’ hospitality and late-night jam sessions in a kitchen which – notably – was recently hauled away to the dump. But that’s how it goes in old mining towns like Leadville. It’s a city that has been changing since the day it began. Businesses come and go, dreams flourish and fade away, and that clock keeps on ticking on historic Harrison Avenue. All the best to The Golden Burro’s next chapter. It’s nice to still see that neon light still burning bright in Leadville Today!
String Cheese Incident – Dudley’s Kitchen
Pastime Bar Shutters Doors
The last operating business in Leadville’s former red-light district has shuttered its doors on May 1, 2021. The bar’s owners did not provide many details, posting on their Facebook Page:
“Well our time has come to an end! Thank you for all your support. It was a fun 5 years everyone! Love all of you From our family to yours: THANK YOU ALL!!! See you around.”
Like many eateries across Colorado, stay-at-home orders and other public health restrictions placed on this industry have crushed many tax-PAYING businesses like the Pastime Bar & Café, an operating business in Leadville since 1878. In addition to the COVID-19 stranglehold, like quite a few other business deals done in the light of good intentions, this one ended with a crash and burn with the historic saloon likely to be put up on the auction block sometime soon. Good luck to the old gal who kept a warm, red glow going down on old State Street for more than 140 years.
Retail: Ins and Outs
When it comes to the selling of goods in Leadville Today there have been a couple of retail shop changes in the past year. The vintage re-sale shop which was located at the corner of Harrison and W. 8th Street, The Mule Kick formally closed its doors in April 2021 after a year of restrictions and stay-at-home orders.
On the southern end of the avenue Elevation Goods just opened shop at 324 Harrison Avenue in the recently rehabilitated building space. Elevation Goods exclusively carries goods from small businesses located in Colorado. Their philosophy is that entrepreneurship inspires and promotes more entrepreneurship, creating much-needed jobs. Not sold yet? Smaller businesses generally have a shorter manufacturer-to-consumer journey, meaning there is more transparency in ingredients, materials, and the source of the products you buy.
Small businesses are often makers, producing goods locally. Your purchase from elevation Goods supports a person, some of whom are making goods in their garage, basement, or while juggling children and their crazy schedules. Check them out in downtown Leadville.