Struggling Restaurants Are Using Old Ski Gondolas As Dining Spaces Now

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, struggling restaurants have come up with an array of creative ways to adhere to indoor dining restrictions during the cold winter months — like erecting mini-greenhouses, igloos, yurts, and now refurbished ski gondolas.

Mountain Top Brewery, located in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, was one of the first restaurants to adopt these out-of-service gondolas into private outdoor dining spaces, according to Food & Wine. During the summer months, they were able to appropriately space out open-air tables across their patio, but as winter loomed they struggled with how to adhere to the guidelines in their frigid mountain town — until they discovered The Gondola Shop.

Located in Fruita, Colorado, The Gondola Shop is a full-service refurbishment and repair shop owned by Dominique Bastien. Typically, Bastien and her team's work involves repainting and polishing working ski gondolas at ski resorts across the globe. But when the pandemic hit, she quickly lost almost all of her resort contracts since mandated closures forced the ski season to end early in March. "I was slowly planning to go bankrupt—no joke," she told Food & Wine.

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In September 2020, Bastien started receiving an influx of calls from restaurants who wanted to use these old cable cars for diners. What would usually amount to a years worth of work was tackled in just four months and the first dining-approved cars were delivered just in time for Christmas.

From there, the picturesque gondolas gained serious traction on social media which has resulted in The Gondola Shop's orders and inquiries blowing up.

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Since the first order, the team has been working around the clock to supply restaurants across the U.S. with these customized, outdoor-dining approved vessels. Now Bastien offers the gondolas in a variety of conditions — from fully customized for around $15,000-20,000 or as-is for about $4,800 to rented for around $500 a month, according to Food & Wine.

The cable-cars aren't just helping Bastien's business stay afloat — they've also been a blessing for many restaurateurs. "It's allowed us to stay relevant and busy, enough to allow all of our employees to stay employed and not lose shifts—because when you lose seats inside (the restaurant), you have to lose staff," John Owen, owner of seven restaurants in the Cleveland area told the outlet.

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