ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The end is nigh for High Finance.
The mountaintop restaurant will close for good in October as part of a larger plan to replace the aging structure with a new building and new concept.
Sandia Peak Tram Co. last week received the necessary U.S. Forest Service approval for the project, according to the company’s senior vice president Benny Abruzzo, further crystallizing the project’s timeline. Abruzzo said High Finance is scheduled to close on Oct. 23, and crews will begin dismantling the building the following week.
The goal is to have a replacement up and running by May 2018.
Doug Smith and Russ Zeigler have operated High Finance since 1979, establishing their restaurant inside what was initially a skier’s day lodge. High Finance’s lease was set to expire this fall, which helped set the stage for a big change. But Abruzzo said there were other reasons to start over, including the building’s age — it was built in 1963 — and a desire to make it more accessible and compliant with all current codes.
“It’s basically outgrown its day and time. … The accessibility that the new restaurant is going to offer is going to be extremely improved,” said Abruzzo, noting that the owners started drawing up new plans about two years ago.
Abruzzo said Sandia Peak Tram Co. will operate the replacement restaurant, which is designed to include both a fine dining setting and a more casual bar-bistro area. The company hasn’t announced the name or menu details.
The new building will be larger than the existing version — 12,800 square feet, compared to 7,000. It will have two levels, though Abruzzo said all the dining areas will be on the upper level.
“One of the really nice things about the new plan is that the fine dining restaurant will have the wonderful western views of the city of Albuquerque, but the bar and bistro will have the amazing view to the east toward the Ortiz Mountains, Santa Fe and the city lights of Edgewood,” Abruzzo said. “That’s going to be a new experience; we’re actually getting views out of both sides of the building.”
The lower level will house more of the operational activities, like food storage, though it also has restrooms available to forest users.
The restaurant will cost an estimated $7 million, Abruzzo said. San Francisco’s Bull Stockwell Allen did the design, while S&J Enterprises will build it.
The fall will also bring some changes to Sandiago’s Mexican Grill, also currently run by Smith and Zeigler. Abruzzo said Sandia Peak Tram Co. will assume operations of the restaurant at the mountain’s base on Nov. 8. It will close for a little more than a week for some interior upgrades and menu tweaks but keep the Sandiago’s name, he said.