With a new season comes change, and that doesn't mean just in the weather. The Tiki Bar, a favorite summer hangout right down by the Dillon Marina, is working on an expansion that will increase its food production, seating capacity and visual appeal just in time for the warm, lazy days of summer.
Previously little more than an outdoor kitchen and small seating area, the Tiki Bar has been stretched to its limits to serve the crowds coming by the marina or flocking to the free concerts at the nearby amphitheater.
“Our ability to cook massive amounts of food is stretched every sunny day,” said Travis Holton, owner of the Tiki Bar and the nearby Pug Ryan's Steakhouse and Brewery.
For the past 14 years, the Tiki Bar has run under the management of Pug Ryan's. Before that, it was an even smaller affair, with a small deck, a few bar chairs, four tables and a gas grill. Since then, it expanded to include a 400-square-foot tent with seating for 40 people and a 500-square-foot deck area with seating for 50 more, not to mention more equipment including a stove, fryers and a griddle, and access to the tent area of the nearby Dillon Yacht Club.
This year, the yacht club has moved to the other side of the marina. The Tiki Bar will incorporate the space where the club previously had pitched its tent, putting up its own new 20 by 20 foot tent. This will complement the bar's existing tent. Ten more tables will be added, which Holton estimates will bring the seating capacity up to 130-150 people.
“Our kitchen is insanely too small for that,” said Holton.
To address this problem, Holton has purchased a 28-foot kitchen concession trailer. The custom-built vehicle is a completely self-contained unit, with its own hood system over the cooking area, fire suppression system, sink with hot water and food preparation area.
Holton said he is looking forward to seeing what the new trailer can do, not only for the convenience of the staff but the improvement of the menu. “This is going to open my chef's capacity to serve more fresh foods.”
A new menu is currently being worked up and will include things like multiple types of tacos, with fresh ingredients, all made possible by the added equipment. While the Tiki Bar has always served lunch, Holton said he is interested in testing out some possible weekend dinner services. He's looking at offering a changing, three-item menu during warm, mid-summer nights.
The kitchen trailer, which will arrive sometime in early May, will not be designed to stand out but rather fit in and blend with its surroundings, with the help of a small fence and decorative flowers.
“It looks like something you would see around a patio at a downtown Denver restaurant,” Holton said. “That's going to help delineate our space a little better.”
Holton is also working on commissioning a new mural. The previous mural, painted by local artist Bonnie Wakeman, depicted the lakeside scenery, including the Tiki Bar, lake and mountains. The new project will be taken on by a handful of Summit High art students under Wakeman's guidance.
“That was just something we wanted to do. The town council was super excited about the idea and I'm really happy that they have students that were interested,” Holton said.
The project will most likely be ongoing through the summer.
Plans and expansion
“The town is very excited about the expansion of the food and beverage selection from the Tiki Bar, we think that there is a greater demand, not just in the numbers of meals that are served but also in the level of the meals,” said Dillon town manager Joe Wray. “Along with being able to provide more efficiently, there's a larger seating area, so it really will take on a whole new look down at the marina this year.”
The Tiki Bar isn't the only change to the marina, which recently won the national Best Marina of the Year award from Dock Age magazine. As part of the 2008 Marina Master Plan, the marina parking lot is being expanded this year.
While the Holtons brought the details of the upcoming Tiki Bar expansion to the town council, the bar is a part of the Marina Master Plan, with the idea of creating a more permanent, brick-and-mortar building hovering some years ahead in the future.
In the meantime, the Holtons, the Tiki Bar and the town of Dillon are looking forward to a successful summer season.
“The town of Dillon is going to be extremely active this year with a lot of people coming in to enjoy all of our concerts, the farmers market, the special events that we put on and most certainly the marina, because that is one of the biggest draws and a highlight of the experience of coming to Dillon,” Wray said.