Dean and Aimee Valdez owned Miners’ lounge, a bar at 1109 Miners Alley in Golden, for six years. The bar sees a lot of traffic, and in order to compensate for COVID restrictions in 2020, the city allowed Miners Saloon to put outdoor seating in the alley behind the bar, which was closed to traffic.
Since then, “25% of our sales have been outdoor seating,” says Aimee Valdez.
But last month, the Valdezes received an email from Rick Murphy, director of community and economic development for Golden, informing them that use of the driveway would be discussed at the August 16 Golden City Council study session. Since public comment was not going to be allowed during the session, the Valdezes submitted a written statement expressing their concerns and their desire to continue using the aisle.
In their letter, they asked the council to make their outdoor seating situation permanent, with both ends of the aisle open for deliveries and the center closed for seating. When the entire alley is open, they said, cars driving down Miners Alley make it unsafe for employees and customers to enter and exit businesses that face the Strip. Deliveries have not been hampered by the current situation, they added, and with the area set to become a bustling arts district, pedestrian safety should be a primary consideration.
During the study session, however, many council members pointed out that the driveway should be enabled for pedestrians and cyclists as well as cars, and said they did not like that the driveway is used only by private companies.
“Putting up barricades for private businesses when you look down the driveway suggests that it’s not pedestrian-friendly to walk down the driveway, it’s welcoming if you’re visiting those businesses,” the mayor said. Laura Weinberg.
Aimee Valdez says she was surprised by these complaints. “We hadn’t heard anything about the catwalk being a problem until we watched the study session,” she adds. “No one has ever told us the gateway was a problem since they established it with us over a year ago.”
The area is going to see a lot of development as it turns into an arts district. The currently closed Meyer Hardware store building at 1103 Arapahoe Street will soon be converted into the Miners Alley Performing Arts Center, thanks to a $2.5 million community revitalization grant. Astor House, a historic hotel and museum at 822 12th Street, is also being redeveloped. Many council members said they want to see how these projects affect parking and pedestrians before considering keeping the driveway open for outdoor dining.
“Frankly, with Miners Alley [Performing Arts Center] under construction and Astor House and already restricted parking and mobility in the area, now is not the right time to continue this use, in my opinion,” said council member Don Cameron. “I would prefer m ‘get rid of it and see how the start-up of these new sites plays out.’
“I think it was great for COVID, and I’m ready to get it over with,” Mayor Weinberg concluded. After asking for a boost, council approved an end to outdoor seating in the lane effective Labor Day.
“Quite frankly, we’re a little puzzled as to why they’re doing this,” says Dean Valdez. “There was no investigation, no study, no outreach,” adds Aimee.
The Valdezes say they spoke with council member Casey Brown after the session, and he seemed to understand their concerns. “It’s a valid criticism to say that we could have done a better job of outreach and communication with businesses in the community,” Brown said. “I think they made some great points in their comments.”
As the driveway is currently landscaped, Brown does not believe there is enough room for cyclists and pedestrians. The initial pilot program for outdoor seating required a five-foot path through the aisle to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and fire regulations; council members had noticed that the trail was not consistently maintained and tables were often pushed along it.
“We are committed to making further investments in this alley. I think we can all agree that we want it to be activated and bustling and the dining area has been helpful,” Brown said. . “At the end of the day, it’s not really accommodating to customers who aren’t in the restaurant.”
Miners Saloon is “a really fantastic business,” adds Brown. “I really hope a lot of their stuff doesn’t leave them.”
Others are not so optimistic. “It’s going to hurt my business, it’s going to hurt my staff, it’s going to hurt neighboring businesses owned by other people,” says Stephen Gould, owner of Speakeasy Golden Moonwhich also overlooks the alley.
Some city council members note that the alley seating was meant to be compensation for coping with COVID, and that Miners Saloon and Golden Moon Speakeasy managed to operate without outdoor space before the pandemic. “I would like to see some justification for why they now feel they need to have the seats to continue to be successful,” council member Paul Haseman said at the meeting.
However, a lot has changed in the hospitality industry since 2020, and Emily Gedeon, communications manager for the Golden City Council, said the group will continue to work with businesses on opportunities for the back alley space. “From the city’s perspective, we’re really interested in continuing to collaborate,” says Gedeon.
But for now, all seating outside Miners Alley has dried up.