The historic Red Onion is an Aspen landmark that holds the lofty distinction of being one of the oldest restaurant saloons, dating back to the silver boom of the 19th century. The Red Onion is one of the most picturesque of the various colorful Victorian establishments in Aspen.
Built in 1892 at the height of the solver boom by Tom Latta (note the name inlaid in the ‘foyer’ tile entry as well as on the front of the building) it was christened the “New Brick Saloon” at the festive opening night ceremonies. However, local old-timers had their own favorite names for this colorful saloon. They nicknamed it the ‘Red Onion’. This meant something out of the ordinary or unusual; something the likes of which could not be found elsewhere on earth.
When the Aspen winter and summer sports development got underway after World War II the old mining town began to reawaken and the Red Onion was again up for sale. Johnny Litchfield, a member of the 10th Mountain Division purchased the old saloon and, after completely remodeling, reopened it as the “Red Onion” on January 8th, 1947.
During the 1950’s, Werner Kuster and his partner Arnold Senn bought the bar from Mr.Litchfield and made it famous in the twenty years that followed by expanding to both sides of the original location to house a dining room and nightclub. Local old-timers still delight in recounting wild nights of live music that included local favorite Freddie Fisher, Louis Armstrong, and Billie Holliday to name a few.
Recently remodeled, The Red Onion is once again the popular saloon and restaurant which began 120 years ago. Several interesting historical treasures still remain in the building. The bar room is almost exactly as it was in 1892. The bar and back bar were stripped of layers of dirt, beer, and whiskey which revealed the beautiful wooden inlay. The two handcrafted Hungarian figures still sit atop the bar, just as they have over the past 100 years. Some of the old time ‘heroes’ in the priceless collection of photos were actually acquaintances of the original proprietors. The walls of the dining room are adorned with an expanding display of historical photographs that depict the early days of Aspen. The portrait of Tom Latta was recently discovered and now oversees the activities in the restaurant.
Early customers were ‘sporting men’, interested in prizefighting, wrestling, cycling, and other popular sports of the time. The original ‘sporting men’ have been replaced by you, today’s skiers, hikers, rugby players, cyclists, golfers, Para gliders and all manner of sport enthusiasts and their fans. The fine old whiskies have made their way back as well as a number of Colorado’s best microbrews.
Beloved by all, young and old, locals and tourists, the Red Onion retains its special old charm and together we create happy memories for years to come. Thank you for your visit!