Entrepreneur strikes restaurant gold
COPPER – A rat, lizard, turtle and shark raced toward the finish line – a strange scene in a restaurant, especially when the diners cheered on the rat.The reason? That small rubber rodent has just won them free margaritas.A wall at Copper’s new restaurant the Lazy Lizard is home to the speedway that hosts the rubber creatures each night.”I didn’t design it for kids, but they love it,” said Lazy Lizard owner Robert Coleman. Coleman opened the new eatery at the base of the American Eagle Lift at Copper Mountain on Dec. 18.Prior to the race, diners draw a number from a passed basket. A large purple die is thrown into the crowd and the rubber racers charge up the wall according to the number of spaces denoted by the die. The group with the number of the winning animal gets complimentary margaritas, a specialty of the Tex-Mex joint. Twelve different margarita varieties are on the menu, including the Winking Eye, Lazy Lizard and Tequila Sunrise.”Business has been fabulous,” Coleman said.
He describes the Lazy Lizard as a casual, entertaining, Mexican beach atmosphere. The restaurant serves lunch, aprés ski and dinner, catering to the crowd who wants to slip right off the slopes and into a chilled margarita.”We conducted focus groups, and everyone wanted quick, good Mexican food,” Coleman said. “It lends itself to more animation than an Italian restaurant.” The restaurant space formerly played host to Indian Motorcycle and the Copper-owned Tuscan Café.”I don’t see how (the Lazy Lizard) can’t be successful as long as it’s comfortable, inviting and family-oriented,” said Cathi Kneuper, owner of Copper Vacations and president of the Copper Resort Chamber. “Anyone and everyone sees it. It’s exposure is so primary.”Thirty yards away from the Lizard is a living room/dining room combination straight from the pages of Martha Stewart’s “Living” magazine. Copper-toned walls, heavy drapery, deep mahogany tables, white linens and a fireplace greet patrons as they enter. A trip to the bathroom reveals a stone-tiled floor, terra-cotta toned counters and muted silver sinks. “I’ve had more people take pictures of this bathroom than you can imagine,” Coleman said.This is Coleman’s other Copper restaurant venture Alexander’s on the Creek, which is more of a fine dining experience. Coleman describes it as elegant but not intimidating.
“I’ve never had so many compliments in my life as when people leave Alexander’s,” Coleman said. “It’s about having a hands-on approach. You have to get to know your guests and what they expect.”Alexander’s caters to those who want to go home, relax and change out of ski pants before dinner. The menu is American with international accents, including items like French onion soup with gruyere, Prince Edward Island mussels and seared duck with wild mushrooms.”It’s kind of fun to have the separation of ideas (between the two restaurants),” Coleman said. “Each one takes you to a different atmosphere, but we essentially serve the same clientele in both.”A veteran of the restaurant business for 43 years, Coleman maintains complete creative control over his dining ventures. “The restaurant business is very demanding, but it’s so rewarding when you see people having a good time,” Coleman said, “It’s all about creating a positive experience with great service, quality and presentation.”He is originally from Amarillo, Texas, where his first restaurant was a sandwich shop in 1976. However, Subway soon entered the scene and cornered the market on sandwiches. Coleman lived and worked in Vail for 14 years before moving to Summit County in February for the opening of Alexander’s.
“Copper had an opportunity for me, and they are a phenomenal company to work with,” Coleman said. “A year ago Copper didn’t have a large restaurant base. It kind of escalated after we built Alexander’s.”What’s next for this innovative restaurateur?”I’m looking to expand more; see what’s on the horizons for the ski industry,” Coleman said.Jennifer Huffman can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 248, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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