Friday, June 5, 2020

AspenPointe Cafe to close at June's end after El Paso County says they won't renew the social enterprise's lease

Posted By on Fri, Jun 5, 2020 at 2:40 PM

click to enlarge COURTESY CSBJ
  • Courtesy CSBJ

Though AspenPointe chiefly provides mental and behavioral health services to residents of El Paso, Park and Teller counties, the longstanding local nonprofit also operates a number of social enterprises — one of them being AspenPointe Cafe for the past nine years.

When we first wrote about the cafe in the Indy in 2012, there were 10 students under the supervision of 21 food service workers and other support staff as part of AspenPointe's culinary training program. Those students included at-risk youth, veterans, students from the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind, and those with a variety of disabilities who've sought AspenPointe's services.

Revenue from diners at AspenPointe Cafe, inside the El Paso County Citizens Service Center at 1675 Garden of the Gods Road, directly went to fund the social enterprise.

But as of June 30, 2020, AspenPointe Cafe operations will cease, says Vice-President of Marketing and Communications Strategy E.J. Rickey.

COVID-19 would seem the likely culprit behind the closure, but only in a roundabout fashion it turns out. According to Rickey, AspenPointe received a letter from El Paso County on Monday, June 1, letting the nonprofit know that they wouldn't be receiving a lease renewal option because the county needed to repurpose the space as part of its own COVID-19 response.

Rickey says the cafe has been successfully operational, even during the recent period in which on-site dining was prohibited, and that prior to notice of the lease expiring, there were no plans to close the cafe. But "we don't have anywhere else to transition the service to," he says, adding "it's an uncertain time for the industry right now, so we decided to go ahead and close."

Roughly 20 jobs will be eliminated, and AspenPointe's working to absorb some staff internally and otherwise help others find new employment.

Outgoing Head Chef Brent Beavers says, "For the last seven years, I have had the pleasure of leading the career training mission and kitchen at AspenPointe Café. When I started at AspenPointe, I had no idea of the impact the students we served would have on my life. The experiences I had while running the kitchen and program changed me as a man, and enlightened me to the power that food and kindness can have in rebuilding and healing people.”

Beavers is also behind Immerse Cuisine at The Carter Payne, home also to Local Relic Artisan Ales. He has also just announced the launch of BFD on site, which stands for "Breakfast for Dinner ... a playful and fun new food concept [which] leans on and draws from many cultures to explore different ideas of what is for breakfast."

We'll have more about BFD in our June 10 Side Dish column. 

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