Last Dance

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

LoDo shuts down at 2 a.m., when the clubs let out and the last nightlife-lovers lazily and loudly make their way to their cars.

By 1:30 a.m. one recent Sunday, many have already called it quits, but the streets are still full of traffic. An ambulance races past. People honk their horns and shout, and music pumps loudly from the cars, many of which appear stuffed with one reveler too many. A white stretch limo parked on Market Street rocks back and forth, but the windows are tinted, so you can't tell what's going on inside.

After F-Stop started hopping, Jerry Arca and other neighbors fought to stop the noise.For years, 1819 Wazee was a gathering place -- but now it's gathering dust.
Brett Amole
After F-Stop started hopping, Jerry Arca and other neighbors fought to stop the noise.For years, 1819 Wazee was a gathering place -- but now it's gathering dust.
After F-Stop started hopping, Jerry Arca and other neighbors fought to stop the noise.
Brett Amole
After F-Stop started hopping, Jerry Arca and other neighbors fought to stop the noise.

Two fire trucks are parked outside F-Stop, lights whirling. Clubgoers file out of the second-story nightspot and down the stairs to the street, which is blocked to traffic. The exiting F-Stop patrons don't pay much attention to the engines; most shrug from indifference, a few from intoxication. Firemen soon emerge from the building and return to their rigs. Someone tripped the alarm, they explain; there's no fire.

Although a large SUV bearing the DPD logo is parked in front of the club, there are no police officers at F-Stop. Usually they're working with club staffers to disperse crowds on the 1800 block of Wazee as fast as they can. Up the street, in a parking lot at the corner of 19th and Wazee, hip-hop grooves blast from stereos with a massively reverberating bass that sounds ready to rip the cars to pieces. People are chatting with each other, chatting on cell phones, making out. Phone numbers are exchanged, friends look for friends. It's a typical LoDo crowd -- except that since these people came from F-Stop, there's one critical difference: Most of the faces are black. And the crowd, if anything, is mellower than other crowds standing outside other clubs that are shutting up all across LoDo. Across the street, the Warehouse Lofts are dark, except for one apartment that glows with blue light.

Now several cops stroll toward F-Stop from the corner of 19th and Wazee. The revelers are usually low-key on this block, says one of the black officers. The real action, he adds, is over on the 1900 block of Market, home to such nightspots as Market 41, the Soiled Dove and LoDo's Bar & Grill.

There are more cops visible on Market Street, but there are also more clubs, more people and more traffic; the block seems very congested, partly because all the pedestrians are crammed onto the sidewalks. (Last summer police experimented with closing off this stretch of Market, but that only made it tougher to move people out of the area.) Two cops watching cars exit from an alley look bored; they broke up a couple of scuffles earlier tonight, nothing major. They're giving directions to a clubgoer when a Camaro Z28 squeals its tires in an excruciating display of machismo.

"Isn't that illegal?" one guy asks the officers.

"We're just here to make sure no one gets in any fights," a cop responds.

A few minutes later, a Denver Sheriff's Department van pulls up to Market 41. A smallish man is escorted out of the club and cuffed. His pockets are emptied into a plastic bag, and he's placed in the van, where at least one other face pokes out of the darkness. The kid goes quietly as another cop explains that he was arrested for causing a "general disturbance." It's typical LoDo stuff, the cop says, before retreating inside the nightclub.

While police have received calls reporting fights and assaults at F-Stop, other LoDo nightclubs have inspired the same sort of calls -- and worse. Even Jerry Arca admits that the "police will tell us this is not the rowdiest club in the neighborhood." But while neighbors were complaining about F-Stop, no one seemed to notice that in February, an altercation broke out in front of Market 41 during which one man fatally stabbed another.

Just this past weekend, Market Street saw more trouble. Early Sunday morning, right as the clubs were letting out, a fatal altercation broke out in the 2000 block of Market. According to police, a man was driving his car through a parking lot when several other men walked in front of his vehicle and blocked it. A shouting match followed, the driver got out, and a fight ensued. One of the men began to shout, "Shoot him! Shoot him!"; a moment later, the driver was shot in the chest. He died shortly afterward at Denver Health Medical Center. The three suspects apparently fled in a black Nissan SUV.

The victim was white. The alleged assailants were Hispanic. None had been at F-Stop that night.

On a normal weekend night, at 2:30 a.m. a dwindling crowd is still hanging out on Market Street, and cars continue to create a din as they cruise past. But by now, the 1800 block of Wazee has become a ghost town. The clubgoers are gone. The police SUV is gone. The parking lot is empty. The whole block is empty, except for one guy lugging an armful of street barriers to a giant parking garage at the other end of the block.

Next week, he'll be gone, too.

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