Colorado Woman Repurposes Old Gondolas for Socially Distanced Dining

Dining out has changed tremendously during the COVID-19 pandemic. Restaurants have gone to great lengths to ensure maximum safety for both staff and diners, including expanded outdoor seating—but the harsh winters of Colorado make it difficult to enjoy your meal in freezing temperatures.

Enter Dominique Bastien, owner of the Gondola Shop. Bastien had been collecting defunct ski gondolas for a number of years, hoping to one day repurpose them. Fortunately, she found the one silver lining of pandemic restrictions: she could finally put the ski gondolas to good use.

At the Gondola Shop, Bastien and her team of painters, welders, woodworkers, and other artisans refurbished gondolas in disuse. Typically, the Gondola Shop works with ski resorts across the globe, but the pandemic caused Bastien to lose all of her customers.

"I was slowly planing to go bankrupt," she said.

Mountain Tap Brewery in Steamboat Springs, Colorado reached out to Bastien in order to acquire a handful of used gondolas for dining. Since then, restaurants across the U.S. have commissioned Bastien for both as-is and upcycled gondolas, ranging from $5,000 to 20,000. Bastien also rents the gondolas out for $500 per month.

The cable cars have allowed restaurants to stay open in the midst of hard times, and owners are very grateful. "It's allowed us to stay relevant and busy, enough to allow all of our employees to stay employed and not lose shifts—because when you lose seats inside (the restaurant), you have to lose staff," said John Owen, owner of several restaurants in the Cleveland area.

Other businesses have used similar dining models, erecting every structure from mini-greenhouses, igloos, and yurts.

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