Last Dance

LoDo's only hip-hop club was hot. Too hot for the neighbors, who put a stop to F-Stop.

And now they never will be. On November 15, the kitchen and club equipment in both Wazoo's and the upstairs nightclub space will be auctioned off and the building cleared to make way for a new -- and presumably quiet -- tenant, Barnhart/CMI Advertising.

The change has been a long time coming. By the time of the August forum, Sims realized that paying for all of the extra precautions would make F-Stop's long-term survival difficult. Loft-dwellers who looked out onto the streets of LoDo and saw a crowd of 500 black people may have been seeing something they'd never seen before, Sims suggests. "If you have fears about a black group or a Latino crowd, this is where you need to take your stand," he says carefully.

"I'm not trying to stay open by screaming 'racism,'" Sims adds. "It's just something that you have to be around to know that's what's happening." Sims has been around the Denver nightlife scene for a long time; he's owned and managed many clubs, and he recognizes that F-Stop filled an important niche for hip-hop lovers. And while he insists that he doesn't think the neighbors are racists, or even unreasonable, he also thinks that if another loud nightclub were plopped into the space at 1819 Wazee -- a club such as Market 41, that draws a mostly white crowd -- there would be fewer complaints.

For years, 1819 Wazee was a gathering place -- but now it's gathering dust.
Brett Amole
For years, 1819 Wazee was a gathering place -- but now it's gathering dust.

But neighbors say their concerns regarding 1819 Wazee have nothing to do with race. They don't care if patrons are black; they care that they can't get to sleep at night. And they want to make sure everyone understands that. A few weeks ago, St. Charles president Jerry Arca wrote to members of the residents' group, warning that Westword was working on an article about the neighborhood dispute. "There is a possibility the residents will be portrayed as unreasonable people who do not accept some of the inevitable frictions of living in an exciting mixed-use neighborhood, and who want no noise or commotion coming from bars or nightclubs anywhere in Lower Downtown," he said. "We are also concerned that the residents may be portrayed as racists whose objections to conditions at the F-Stop are due to its clientele rather than to substantive problems with the club."

The neighborhood's history in dealing with 1819 Wazee Street has been a "whole series of promises made and promises broken," Arca tells Westword. "I think the question that has to be asked is, are we kind of at the point where this group is responsible enough to have a license?"

Dan Shipp, owner of the building that housed Wazoo's and F-Stop, worked for years to keep those promises -- at a heavy cost to his business -- but says he never got a break from the nearby residents. "We know it's a witch-hunt," he adds. "When you get in these things, the neighbors usually win."

This weekend, the neighbors win.

It's just a coincidence, they say, that black music fans lose.

From her second-floor loft in the Streetcar Stables building at the corner of 17th and Wynkoop streets, Shannon Gifford has a great view. Across 17th is the Oxford Hotel, with its famous Cruise Room bar; her side of the street boasts a coffeehouse, a dry cleaner and, right beneath her, a Mexican restaurant. "I know more people here than any neighborhood I've lived in," says Gifford, a business and real estate consultant who's lived in her loft for five years.

For many years, the only people who lived in this part of town were bums and squatters who made their homes in flophouses and abandoned warehouses. But two decades ago, urban pioneers slowly began reclaiming the century-old storefronts of lower downtown; that trickle turned into a flood of loft-dwellers after Denver decided to build its baseball stadium at the edge of what had become known as LoDo.

Today LoDo is home to a few thousand people -- some renters, many owners of lofts that range from modest to million-dollar. They've worked together to become a neighborhood, forming associations and coping with such inner-city issues as parking, trash pickup (the city doesn't handle it for most of this part of town) and rowdy people who come to LoDo to party.

"Residents feel strongly that this is an economic engine," says Arca. "It's successful because there's a wonderful balance between residential, commercial and entertainment. If you talk to residents, you'll hear the word `balance' quite a bit."

The residents' group maintains that "balance" by getting incoming businesses -- particularly new clubs, restaurants and bars -- to voluntarily submit to certain demands, including controlling patrons' unruly behavior, cleaning up the area outside the building, not playing music anywhere outdoors. Businesses that promise to be good neighbors are welcomed. Those that resist are not.

Most of the residents have adjusted to urban living pretty well, and they co-exist with the businesses that lay claim to LoDo during the daytime and evening hours. "You get to the point where a fire truck or cop car doesn't bother you," says Jim Graebner, who lives at the Streetcar Stables. "It's part of the urban scene. You tend to tune it out. Sunday morning is a nice time 'cause it's so quiet. Seeing a pool of barf is a minor thing, but you have to suggest to folks that's not appropriate."

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