Bon Ton Restaurant Closes
by Samantha Wright
Nov 01, 2012 | 3013 views | 0 0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print

OURAY – One of Ouray’s best-known and best-loved restaurants is shutting its doors.

Bon Ton proprietors Tim Tucker and Tyler Hill have been forced to close the venerable Italian restaurant in the cellar of the historic St. Elmo Hotel in response to a tough summer season and “turbulence” stemming from a problem with disgruntled former employees.

The situation has been “festering” for weeks, said a tearful Tucker earlier this week, and financial backers have pulled out as a result. Monday was the last day the restaurant was slated to be open “unless a miracle happens.”

Tucker alleges that former employees have sabotaged his business by giving the Bon Ton poor online reviews on sites like Trip Advisor, making false reservations that cause the restaurant to stay open late, and making “personal attacks” against Tucker in the community.

“Their actions have caused a lot of people to lose their jobs,” Tucker said. The Bon Ton currently employs 21 people, but in the summer that number is closer to 30.

Tucker, a former funeral director who has had co-ownership in two funeral homes on the Front Range, moved to Ouray with Hill last winter with hopes of becoming part of the community, but locals turned against him, he said, when word got out that he has a criminal history. Tucker is a convicted sex offender.

The incidents, which involved a minor, occurred in 1989 and 1990. Tucker says he is rehabilitated and has had a clean record ever since, but per Colorado law, must continue to register with the state every 90 days.

“I’ve never experienced the level of hate that has been shot around here in the last several months,” Tucker said. “It’s been like living in the seventh pit of hell. I’ve definitely experienced ostracism and exclusion. I don’t understand the huge backlash on something that happened a quarter century ago.”

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s convicted sex offender site, which contains Tucker’s record, comes with a disclaimer that the information is provided simply as an awareness tool. “Use of the sex offender registry information to harass, endanger, intimidate, threaten or in any way seek retribution on an offender through illegal channels is prohibited,” the disclaimer states. “Any person who engages or participates in such acts may be charged criminally.”

Tucker said he has complained to both the Ouray Police Department and the Ouray County Sheriff Department about the harassment he has allegedly been experiencing, but that neither agency took any meaningful action to address the issue. The Sheriff’s Department told Tucker that the problem was not within its jurisdiction.

An officer at the Ouray Police Department told The Watch that the only harassment incident involving Tucker that he was aware of involved a broken window, and that the perpetrator had been charged.

Tucker and Hill acquired the Bon Ton restaurant and its sister business, the St. Elmo Hotel, in a five-year lease purchase deal in December 2011. Dan and Sandy Lingenfelter, the former proprietors, have owned the pair of businesses since the 1980s. Tucker said on Monday it was unclear whether the Lingenfelters would attempt to reopen the restaurant.

The St. Elmo Hotel will continue to stay open for the time being under Tucker and Hill’s management. But in the long run, Tucker said, “We’re probably out of here.”

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