Cafe Aspen Shuts Off the Grill

Owner hopes someone can breathe new life into Fort Worth favorite

The new team at Fort Worth's popular Cafe Aspen ended the agreement to manage the restaurant, and now the doors to the west side favorite are locked as the owner searches for a buyer.

"It didn't work out, so they decided. I got the email on Saturday that as of the first, they'd be done.  It was a dark day," owner David Rotman told NBCDFW Tuesday night.

"We took over on Oct. 12. We signed a management contract with David Rotman, the owner.  Within the first couple of months, there were disclosure problems including health department reports, so we had to terminate the agreement," said operator, Chef J.D. Loy.

As for Loy's future? 

"We're not really sure right now.  This has been a life-long dream and to get burned was kind of a disappointment," he said.   Without the restaurant, there's no where to operate his catering business known as The Chaparral Chef. He will continue teaching classes, though at The Culinary School of Fort Worth.

Loy told NBCDFW he found jobs elsewhere for some of the restaurant's employees.

"We meet today to give them their final paychecks. We have paid off the vendors and left with a clean slate."

What's next for Cafe Aspen is unclear.

Rotman opened Cafe Aspen 20 years ago while still a student at Texas Christian University.  Through the years, he gained a faithful following while juggling the demands of husband and father of two.

"This community welcomed me," he said. "I spent more time at that restaurant than with my family, children and friends."

Last fall, Mira Vista Country Club hired Rotman as clubhouse manager and he entered in the management agreement with Loy. Rotman described the Mira Vista deal as "a great opportunity that blossomed out of what I did at Cafe Aspen." 

Rotman said he put "love and heart" into his business.  Now he's trying to find the right group to "come in and buy, maybe rebrand and reopen."

"I can't go back.  I can't," Rotman told NBCDFW. "I have a lot on my plate right now, a great opportunity with Mira Vista and I have two children now. I hope someone will come and take it, love the space, reuse the space and breathe new life for maybe another 20 years."

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