Dillon Town Council talks more about tiki bar’s future as changes likely remain in store for the marina

With views of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, the tiki bar at the Dillon Marina offers food and drinks to paddlers and boaters

Liz Copan/Summit Daily News archive
The sun fades over the Dillon Marina and surrounding condominiums on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022.
Liz Copan/Summit Daily News archive

The Dillon Town Council will not issue a request for proposals seeking new concessionaire to run the tiki bar at the town marina.

Earlier this month, some town council members suggested that the tiki bar, which has been run for years by Pug Ryan’s Brewery, was overdue for improvements and the town should seek proposals from other businesses that would like to run it.

But during a work session on Tuesday, Sept. 19, other council members said not enough effort had been made to communicate with Pug Ryan’s before soliciting a potential replacement. Council members also noted capital improvements are planned to the marina in coming years and talked about how a clearer vision for the waterfront will be necessary moving forward.

“I think we’re entering the season of the lakefront,” Mayor Carolyn Skowyra said. “The next decade will be spent pouring money into the lakefront. I think we’re all itching to get that started.”

During the tiki bar discussion, council members brainstormed possible future ideas for the waterfront, including a three- or four-season restaurant and a hot chocolate stand that could serve winter guests to the reservoir.

Town Attorney Nick Cotton-Baez started out the conversation by noting that, while the town could issue a request for proposals seeking a new company to run the tiki bar without terminating the current lease with Pug Ryan’s, it could strain the town’s relationship with the concessionaire.

“What does that say to the partner right now that you have?” Cotton-Baez said. “Do you want to risk losing that partnership?”

Moreover, the seawall on which the tiki bar stands is planned for replacement as early as 2026. Cotton-Baez questioned whether other companies would be interested in a concessionaire agreement to run a business with such an uncertain future. He also noted that Pug Ryan’s has $250,000 worth of equipment at the site, which the town would either have to buy or a new concessionaire would have to replace.

After visiting the tiki bar last weekend, Cotton-Baez called the synergy between the Dillon Marina staff and the tiki bar staff “undeniable.”

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“Running the tiki bar appears to be very challenging,” Cotton-Baez said. Equating the bar’s operation to a “carry-in, carry-out campsite,” he noted staff have to prep the food offsite, haul it down, cook it out of a trailer and haul dirty dishes out.

The concessionaire has indicated that revenues from the tiki bar are up significantly since Pug Ryan’s changed hands last spring, Cotton-Baez said.

Still, some council members said they believed the tiki bar space could be better utilized.

“I’m a slipholder down there, and I haven’t been there once,” Council member John Woods said. “So this love for the tiki bar that everyone feels, I don’t feel. I think we could do something better. I’m not blaming the concessionaire for the facilities they have there.”

Woods said he would like to see a three-season restaurant at the Dillon Reservoir waterfront. He added that if the town were to put a request for proposals out there, Pug Ryan’s could also submit a proposal. 

Council member Renee Imamura agreed that the tiki bar is ripe for improvements and said a request for proposals might create more competition for the tiki bar location, potentially resulting in an increase in quality.

“I think it is a prime area and could be done a lot better,” Imamura said. She added, “the locals aren’t happy.”

Cotton-Baez suggested that the town hire a consultant who could analyze the area with long-term goals in mind — rather than issuing a request for proposals to solicit ideas about how to improve the tiki bar.

Several council members, including Imamura, liked the idea of a consultant. Council member Brad Bailey suggested that a consultant could help with small short-term changes that could be made this upcoming spring as well as long-term planning with the capital improvements planned in coming years.

But Bailey also noted that he is opposed to terminating Pug Ryan’s lease or issuing a request for proposals for a new concessionaire. He said the town council did not do enough to communicate its concerns about quality with the Pug Ryan’s before suggesting the concessionaire be replaced.

“I think it’s a horrible idea to call this lease,” Bailey said.

Council member Kyle Hendricks also voiced his opposition to ending the lease or the town’s relationship with Pug Ryan’s. He said that if the town yanks the lease out from under this concessionaire, that could send the message to the next concessionaire that the town might do the same to them at any time.

“It’s doing good,” Hendrick said. “Revenues are up. Why are we trying to put a stop to that? Why are we interfering?”

Skowyra noted “there are so many moving parts here that we all need to talk about” and suggested that additional work sessions be scheduled so that the council can come up with a clearer vision for the waterfront. The consensus from the council, she said, seems to be that it is not ready to issue a request for proposals but wants to explore improvements to the waterfront more in the coming weeks.

Shedding a few tears, Chris Locke, the owner of Pug Ryan’s shared a few comments with the council at the end of the meeting. 

“I think you guys know how I feel about this,” Locke said. “I think you guys know how hard I work.”

Revenues are up significantly, more than 40%, Locke said, adding that he does have local customers who love the place and visit regularly.

“Is it perfect? Hell no,” Locke said. “We’ve got a lot of constraints that we’ve got to deal with. I wish I could make every one of you super happy. I wish I could make filet mignon.”

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