Llama to Close Down for Good
by Marta Tarbell
Mar 28, 2012 | 1305 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
‘NO LLAMA, no music, no nightlife, no fun,’ was the message of one Llama patron, who joined others in posting messages on the restaurant/night club’s windows after learning of its closure. (Photo by Brett Schreckengost)
‘NO LLAMA, no music, no nightlife, no fun,’ was the message of one Llama patron, who joined others in posting messages on the restaurant/night club’s windows after learning of its closure. (Photo by Brett Schreckengost)
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Neighbor ‘Deserves a Peaceful Existence’ TELLURIDE – Llama owner Fletcher McKusker is philosophical about the closing of his business, which started as a Mexican restaurant on West Pacific Ave. in 2004 and morphed into a restaurant/nightclub on main street.

“He deserves a peaceful existence,” McKusker said, of the upstairs resident whose increasingly vociferous complaints about the noise led to the April 7 restaurant closure.

Once noise complaints were logged, McKusker added, Chief Marshal Jim Kolar “was between a rock and a hard place.

“It’s his job to enforce the law, and if people complained, he had to cite us.

“It’s like the Bubble Lounge,” McKusker said, referring to the nightclub a block west, above O’Bannon’s, that shut down last year after repeated noise complaints from residents upstairs.

But the dilemma at the heart of this latest skirmish in the battle to permit late-night music in Telluride remains unresolved, suggested McKusker.

“Skiers want an après-ski environment; great ski resorts have nighttime entertainment,” he said, “and Telluride has always scored very poorly in that regard. I think we changed the game.

“There’s no doubt it was noisy,” he said, of the two or three days a week of high-season, late-night music. “We addressed the issues when we got complaints from adjacent businesses or residents or passersby, but there really wasn’t anything we could do.”

The sound levels, he said, were “internal to the building,” a fact that led, “ultimately, to our demise.”

Running a restaurant in Telluride, McKusker observed, “is very seasonal, as most restaurant owners will tell you: ‘Make hay while the sun shines, and then hang on in the off seasons.’

“We pretty much broke even,” but with a big assist from “music, and the alcohol sales associated with that.”

With a roster of top-flight musical acts from Otis Taylor to the Emmett Nershi Band, the Wailers and Ana Sia, over recent years, the Llama emerged as a go-to spot for music lovers.

“We had a couple of things working in our favor,” McKusker said, when it came to transforming the spacious bar/restaurant into a nightclub.

“It’s a great room, on a great corner, easy to get into and out of, with a horseshoe bar up front.

“When we took out the furniture out of there, it was easy to put in 250 people. Unfortunately, there were residents above it who eventually decided it was unbearable.”

The bigger loser, in this scenario, McKusker suggested, is Telluride.

“We really kind of backed into the whole music scene,” he explained, “after being approached about being a juke joint place by Jazz and Bluegrass,” two of the summer’s three music festivals held every year in Town Park.

“Everyone loved it so much, we got together and said, gee, what if we did this on a regular basis? It turned out to be a huge success. Bands loved to play there, and were usually very well-received in the area.

“It was a great opportunity” for traveling acts “to stop in Telluride,” he added.

“It’s a sad day for everyone,” McKusker said.

Irony of ironies, he added, “It was probably our best season.”

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