Beloved Park City restaurant closes as historic building deteriorates
Karleen Reilly, the owner of Uptown Fare, on Thursday was at the restaurant, a smallish space in a historic building on Main Street known as the Star Hotel.
It was strewn with boxes, random cooking tools and what appeared to be mementos from Reilly’s time preparing lunches for Parkites and visitors seeking a homier place to eat along a street where the restaurant competition is intense.
Uptown Fare closed on Sept. 21 and plans to vacate the space by the end of October, a forced shutdown as a result of a City Hall action against the building itself. The Park City Building Department determined the Star Hotel is unsafe for human occupancy, citing numerous safety problems in its action. The Uptown Fare space was the only part of the building that was occupied at the time the Building Department moved against the Star Hotel.
"I know everybody’s order," Reilly said, recalling customers would choose the same table day after day and ask for the same meal.
The turkey sandwiches, egg-salad sandwiches and tomato soup were especially popular, Reilly said.
Reilly opened the restaurant at the location in 1999. Over the 16 years, Uptown Fare was known as a place where someone could order a home-style meal that Reilly normally cooked herself. It was open from 11 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., serving lunch only. Reilly modeled Uptown Fare after visiting European restaurants set in houses instead of commercial properties. It sat just 21 people, but it became a beloved restaurant nonetheless. Uptown Fare once gained notoriety for advertising itself as locals-only restaurant during the Sundance Film Festival, a time when Park City eateries are overrun with Hollywood crowds. Nine out of every 10 customers on any given day were Park City people, Reilly estimated
Uptown Fare most recently leased its space at the Star Hotel on a month-to-month basis. The space Uptown Fare occupied was in good condition, Reilly said. She acknowledged the other parts of the building had deteriorated, though.
The oldest parts of the building date to approximately 1885, according to a City Hall report detailing the history. Some of the 19th century portions are visible on the roof and the sides, the municipal government says. The Spanish colonial architecture that is now seen appeared in the 1920s.
It was the site of a tragic accident in 2013, when the owner of the Star Hotel at the time, Carol Rixey, fell through the sheetrock from the attic to the second floor. She died in the accident. Family members said at the time it appeared she was putting in a fan when she fell. A Provo firm called Westlake Land, LLC acquired the property. The firm amassed the Star Hotel and at least two other properties along Main Street in quick succession as Park City enjoyed a strong exit from the recession.
In the spring of 2014, the manager of the firm, Todd Cusick, said the Star Hotel was determined to have structural issues. He said at the time the appearance of the Star Hotel was no longer historically significant as a result of alterations between the late 1960s and the early 1980s. He also said the firm wanted to redevelop the property with condominiums on the upstairs floors and retail or restaurant square footage on the Main Street level. Cusick declined to comment this week about the situation at the Star Hotel.
The Building Department in early October issued what is referred to as a notice and order to repair regarding the Star Hotel. It was addressed to the Cusick-managed firm. The notice and order, which was released in response to a Park Record request under state open-records laws, will effectively prohibit people from occupying the building until significant work is completed. The notice and order gives 30 days from Oct. 5 for Uptown Fare to vacate the building.
The Building Department notice and order includes 40 photographs detailing issues officials found at the property. The photographs show decaying rubble after the infiltration of water, decaying or deteriorating bricks on the chimney and structural separation in a bedroom, which appear as significant cracks in the photographs.
Another photograph shows a 1930s-era boiler that, according to the report, does not have inspection tags. The gas line feeding the boiler "is unsafe and should be terminated," the report says. Richard Novasio, the senior building inspector at City Hall, said natural-gas service has been terminated to the property. The Building Department, meanwhile, found open electrical boxes, creating the possibility of an electrocution or a fire, according to the report.
He said there was a minor roof leak over the past two winters. In the past, the heating system that warmed the Star Hotel would keep lots of snow from piling up on the roof. The heat was turned off for more than a year, he said. Snow could threaten the structural stability of the roof, Novasio said.
Novasio anticipates the Star Hotel will not be used again until major work is undertaken. It has a foundation made of dirt and rubble, he said. Without a concrete foundation, Novasio said, the structural stability of the building is in jeopardy.
"It’s dangerous. It’s unfit for human occupancy," Novasio said.
Uptown Fare is seeking a new location. Reilly has lived in Park City for parts of the past 45 years, now residing within walking distance of the former site of the restaurant. She wants to reopen Uptown Fare elsewhere, probably outside of the Main Street core.
"They’re just really sad. They don’t have a place to go anymore to eat," Reilly said about Uptown Fare regulars, adding, "They don’t have a place to come. You’re local, you come, you say ‘Hi’ to five or six people."
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