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Cafe brings to life Steamboat's heritage

— Visitors to the City Cafe looking for a grande latte will leave unsatisfied. The operators of the cafe in Centennial Hall are so authentically western they size their coffees as Lil' Joe, The Ben and The Hoss, three different-sized brothers from the hit television show "Bonanza."

Starting Monday, the City Cafe, housed in the old Elkins Power Plant, will be open for breakfast and lunch from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will begin to open for meetings and events at night.

The operators of the cafe, who just signed a lease agreement with the city, call themselves Blue Bonnet Catering. The catering company is made up of Fritz Aurin of the Smokehouse and Melissa Cartan, who started Brookie's Deli.

They will be paying 10 percent of their gross receipts to the city as a lease payment on a nine-year lease, Aurin said. Blue Bonnet Catering, however, does not have an exclusive catering contract with the city, Aurin said. The city currently gets food for City Council and Planning Commission meetings at restaurants all over town.

The cafe, which is decorated with pictures of Steamboat's rough-riding past, has a distinctly western feel, though John Wayne would likely have passed on the Quiche O' the Day.

"It's a beautiful space," Cartan said. "It deserves so much better than vending machines."

As in other parts of Centennial Hall, the space is richly detailed and full of symbols of Steamboat's past. Local cattle brands adorn the wide sliding wooden door leading from the cafe to the Crawford Room next door, with a special row of brands in the middle of the door dating back more than 100 years. The old back counter from F.M. Light and Sons acts as the back counter at the cafe. The space even has an antique fire extinguisher, which is hung from a cabinet in the back. Books about western life sit on a wooden shelf just a few feet from an old gas stove.

"We're going to just embellish it more and more," Aurin said.

The cafe is also going to have a computer with free internet access for the public, Aurin said.

For the past year, the city has been using Centennial Hall without a working cafe, though it has hosted parties and gatherings in the space.

The members of the Centennial Hall Committee made it a point to include food in their plans for the building, because they felt it was a way for the city to encourage people to stay and enjoy the space.

Councilwoman Arianthtettner also pushed for food to be integrated into the new building. In a written statement she prepared in March, she wrote, "Food is an honored tradition at meetings all around Steamboat Springs, so it's only natural that people would appreciate the ability to conduct some business over a cup of coffee or a sandwich."

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