Montañas southwestern restaurant and nightclub opens today in Avon.
By Melanie Wong and Phil Lindeman
It’s fitting that Avon’s newest restaurant takes its name from the surrounding mountain peaks.
Montañas, opening Feb. 23 in the old Finnegan’s Wake space in the heart of Avon, is as spacious and unmistakable as the valley wilderness.
“I want this to be the heart of the area,” says Liz Ferron, co-owner of Montañas with her husband, Tom Beaver, and another partner, Andrea Burrows. “We want this to be a place where people can meet with their family, or use Wi-Fi, or sit on the deck and watch the mountains. We want to bring levity.”
The owners did away with the faux-Irish atmosphere of Finnegan’s Wake and opted for a fresh, Southwestern vibe. The remodeled interior, with adobe-colored walls and black, wrought-iron fixtures, has the feel of a Latin villa. Despite an abundance of Mexican restaurants in the area, Ferron describes Montañas as “modern, open and airy” – a far cry from corner store burrito joints.
That modernity shines through today, when the restaurant opens for service with a full menu, selection of tapas and signature cocktails, and one of the largest dedicated nightclub spaces this side of Denver.
From palm trees to mountains
Beaver and Ferron have a dream for the new establishment, and it’s based on more than 25 years of proprietor experience in Vero Beach and Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Beaver owned several successful and long-lived restaurants and a nightclub in Florida before moving to Vail permanently three years ago. Ferron was a stand-up comedian and radio host, and both have taken a hiatus from their respective careers since moving to the mountains – until the old Finnegan’s Wake building went empty.
The duo says they have high hopes that their plan for a combo restaurant and club will have a place in the valley.
Recreating some of the success from the Florida establishments will start with a core group of employees, Ferron says. Many of Beaver’s employees at former restaurants worked for him more than 20 years and were like family – he hopes it will be the same at Montañas.
“I think the key is attention to detail,” says Beaver, thoughtfully looking around the newly finished club area.
Looking ahead to the summer, he hopes to liven up the large wooden deck in front of the building into an outdoor dining room and stage.
“With that deck out there, I think summer’s going to be hopping,” he says.
When the beloved (but admittedly beaten) Finnegan’s Wake was forced out of business by high rent and a slow shoulder-season last October, Avon lost a valuable space. The 6-year-old restaurant had been floundering for some time and the empty hull it left in a high-profile portion of town was an eyesore.
For a cadre of local entrepreneurs, the time was ripe to rejuvenate. But the challenges were steep: rent was still a concern, and the 6,000 square foot building –it’s the largest restaurant in Avon, with two full bars, an upstairs dance floor and enormous lower dining room – had confounded past owners.
“This space was too big for this area to wrap its mind around,” Beaver says. “People and managers didn’t know what to do with it before.”
The management at Finnegan’s had tried building a club atmosphere with regular DJ sets, but something never clicked. When Beaver and Ferron first explored the space three months back, the two immediately saw the chance to expand on a missed opportunity.
“Tom’s very persuasive, diligent and had a great vision for the place,” says Ferron, who is all fervent energy while her husband is all attentiveness and details. “He saw something there.”
For starters, Beaver treated the upstairs like a separate entity. Gone are the pool tables and awkward booths – on opening day, Montana’s will feature a nightclub upstairs, with dedicated space for bottle-service, a DJ booth and 1,000-square-foot dance floor.
“This will be like something not found in the valley,” says Beaver, comparing it Vail-area clubs like Samana Lounge. “Everything is fresh and new. Nothing is what it used to be, and it’s for the better.
Something for everyone
The entire idea of the place is that it has enough room to appeal to everyone.
The menu is extensive, a combination of Mexican favorites and fusion dishes, such as chipotle ribs, house-made black bean hummus and Ahi tuna lettuce wraps. The same goes for drinks. The bars are the centerpieces of both the club and restaurant areas, so Beaver and Ferron also hope the libations won’t disappoint. You can order a variety of margaritas, cocktails, as well as 10 different drafts and a selection of wines.
Upstairs, besides dancing, Montañas will host live shows – including performances by some of the Snowball music festival artists, and quarterly comedy shows.
“We want everybody to have a reason to come here,” Ferron says.
Not up for hitting the dance floor? The club also includes a lounge area, VIP area with circular tables, wine service and an antique wood-burning stove. It simultaneously achieves both sophisticated and cozy.
“We’re trying to provide an ambience and a comfort level that people want,” Beaver says. “We’ve providing quality product at a reasonable price – what more can you ask?”