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Swiss, Austrian take over Black Bear

By Brandon Johansson
The Daily Times-Call

LYONS — Boulder County is a long way from home for Charles Frey and Siegfried Lanzer. But for this pair of seasoned restaurateurs, working in a foreign land is old hat.

Frey, 53, is a native of Berne, Switzerland. Lanzer, 41, hails from Salzburg, Austria.

Both men have worked at restaurants throughout Europe, Asia and the United States.

In December, they bought the Black Bear Inn in Lyons.

“The people are very nice here,” Lanzer said. “It reminds me of home.”

The previous owners, Hans and Annalies Wyppler, owned and operated the 50-year-old European eatery since 1977.

“After 27 years of owning the Black Bear Inn, and 15 years in the business, it was time to relax a bit,” Hans Wyppler said.

Frey and Lanzer came to Lyons from Vail, where they worked at the Sonnenalp resort.

The pair has more than 50 years of restaurant experience between them. Lanzer has worked predominately as a chef and Frey as a general manager.

This is their first ownership venture.

At the Black Bear Inn, Lanzer is the main chef and runs the kitchen. Frey is in charge of the administration and service of the restaurant.

“Being as small as we are, you end up doing a lot of different things,” Frey said. That means being everything from maitre’d to handyman.

When they took over the restaurant last winter, Lanzer and Frey kept the staff and most of the menu intact.

They added a few dishes, including two meals customers cook at their table, raclette — a grilled Swiss dish with a variety of meats, fruits and cheeses — and fondue.

Frey said the raclette is a good dish for groups of people because customers enjoy cooking their meals together.

“It’s really fun, but by yourself it’s not fun,” Frey said.

Most people consider the Black Bear Inn a German restaurant, but Frey and Lanzer call their cuisine “European alpine,” a description they say better encompasses the variety of cuisine they offer.

“You have the Alps everywhere in Europe,” Frey said.

That means the Black Bear can serve French food, German food and Swiss food.

Frey and Lanzer plan to make some changes to the menu down the road, but they said changing a menu is a long process. If they take something off, there is always a customer who wants to order it, Frey noted.

Lanzer’s specialty is cooking with fish, so he hopes to add more seafood to the menu.

They also have blueprints to add as many as 10 guest rooms. But adding rooms, Frey said, is probably a long way off.

Frey and Lanzer’s first winter at the Black Bear was a little slower than they would have liked, but Frey said business is picking up.

“Traffic up to Estes is improving,” Frey said, which is is helping business.

Longmont is the pair’s prime target. Frey said because Longmont has a lot of chain restaurants, the Black Bear Inn will stand out.

“People don’t mind driving 20 minutes for a good meal,” Frey said.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 389, or by e-mail at bjohansson@times-call.com.