Café 36 to change hands soon (Updated)

Posted by Matthew Schniper on Tue, May 25, 2010 at 1:29 PM

Update, May 25: I just finished interviewing Bill Sherman for this week's upcoming Side Dish column. The most shocking news from the chat is that Sherman is planning to close Amuzé Bistro on May 31, and essentially go all-in on the FAC.

Sherman is confident, having turned a tiny Palmer Lake space into a viable destination restaurant, that he can turn the fickle FAC dining area into one as well.

He says the increase in volume will allow him to match the current price points at the FAC without compromising his former menu style. Meaning Amuzé Bistro fans are going to be able to spend a lot less while still being able to enjoy Sherman's top-quality, fine dining eats.

Check out this week's Side Dish for more details.

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Update, May 24: We just received an e-mail from FAC director of communications Charlie Snyder, naming William Sherman of Amuzé Bistro as the replacement for Garden of the Gods Gourmet at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.

The restaurant name will change from Café 36 to Amuzé at the FAC and according to the release, begin lunch service on Thursday, June 3, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesdays through Sundays.

For more on Amuzé Bistro, click here.

— — —

As of the end of May, Garden of the Gods Gourmet will no longer operate Café 36 for the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.

Says Charlie Snyder, the FAC's director of communications:

After negotiating in good faith for the past few months, we weren’t able to reach consensus on some key issues on a new deal. Garden of the Gods Gourmet has done an excellent job of operating Café 36; the food and service were outstanding. We are pleased that they will remain as one of our preferred caterers.

Says Sandra Vanderstoep, owner of Garden of the Gods Gourmet:

We ran into an impasse on the terms of our contract ... We very much regret that we couldn't come to an agreement — our intent was to be in the FAC for a long time. The terms and conditions they were asking to change made it impossible for me to say yes and stay profitable.

As for who will take over operations from here, Snyder says the FAC will likely know something by month's end.

Now here's what I'm wondering: Over the past six years or so, The Food Designers, Picnic Basket and Garden of the Gods Gourmet have all had runs in the Café 36 space, and now all three remain "preferred caterers." (Well — at least everyone knows how to play nice.) How long will the next outfit last, and will the same sticking points that are driving Garden of the Gods out eventually sour the deal?

Does the problem lie with the chefs or the curators?

Call it a eulogy for Café 36 as we currently know it. I do know this: The food at the FAC has been better under Garden of the Gods Gourmet's supervision than ever before, as evidenced by recent awards and several meals had by myself and friends who've expressed the same sentiment.

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  • Brienne Boortz


Whoever steps in better be prepared to pick up the fine dining expectations we now all bring to the FAC. Nobody want to see our gorgeous new museum's restaurant slip back into being a snack bar with a view.

Comments (4)

Showing 1-4 of 4

Well, I will say that Cravings (the Picnic Basket) did an awesome job on our wedding, so I hope they take over the management of Cafe 36? Only time will tell!

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Posted by cspringsfunk on 04/05/2010 at 7:19 PM

"The food at the FAC has been better under Garden of the Gods Gourmet's supervision than ever before, as evidenced by recent awards and several meals had by myself and friends who've expressed the same sentiment."

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Posted by AlanaZerbe on 04/06/2010 at 12:26 PM

I've seen a bit of mixed coverage on this development between the FAC and Garden of the Gods Gourmet recently, and I have to say most of it seems more sympathetic to Garden of the Gods.

That's unfortunate, as much more than just "fine dining" goes into the relationship between a venue and its hosted food services. The folks at the FAC are not stupid, and ultimately must do what's best for the organization. One has to wonder if something other than just a contract negotiation has made the relationship untenable. As someone who has worked around Sandra Vanderstoep, I can personally say that she is not an easy individual to get along with if you are a business partner and not a client. She's rude, abrupt, and caustic - all of which can sour a relationship even if there are decent financial terms in place. Sometimes it's just not worth the trouble.

Perhaps the contract between the two companies was poorly written, or was written to give GotGG a distinct advantage. Maybe the interim management that was at the FAC when Garden of the Gods Gourmet took over was indifferent to the long-term consequences of their actions given their temporary status. (wasn't Raintree in charge at the FAC then?)

Add to that third-party issues surrounding Garden of the Gods Gourmet (they were kicked out of Norris Penrose Event Center a while back - has anyone questioned why that happened?), and if I were the FAC I'd be having second thoughts about continuing with Garden of the Gods too, no matter how good the food is. And Garden of the Gods Gourmet isn't the only food service gig in town capable of offering "fine dining."

I agree that the revolving door of Cafe 36 food service companies needs to slow down, but I don't think we should be too hasty in judging the Fine Arts Center based on marketing-speak from either side. Time will tell whether the service and food will suffer or not, and Garden of the Gods Gourmet appears to have its own set of issues at the moment.

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Posted by wcn16 on 04/15/2010 at 5:10 PM

Well, sounds like I'd better go get one more Café 36 burger. Yum.

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Posted by kaydubj on 05/24/2010 at 5:39 PM
Showing 1-4 of 4

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