Last Sunday night, local rapper BossMan Goodie, aka 29-year-old Tyrone Adair Jr. of Aurora, was killed in a shooting outside the hip-hop venue and nightclub Cold Crush at 2700 Larimer Street. The nightclub, which opened in May 2013 and was named Westword's Best New Bar that year, has now been closed, with the city citing it as a public nuisance "due to the unlawful discharge of a firearm," as seen in the notice posted below.
Westword spoke with Brian Mathenge, who owns Cold Crush along with Musa Bailey and Eric Cunningham.
"I don't know exactly when [the notice] was posted, but I knew it had been posted, [and] to add insult to injury, they came and took away our liquor license," Mathenge says. "I own another building on Colfax, and I'm negotiating a buyout with my current tenant — [but just moving the business] would be me giving up on my community. I come from Venice Beach, California, one of the most liberal places in the world. I come from a mixed-race background. I was always taught in L.A. that we all get along and we all party together."
The venue has focused on hip-hop entertainment with popular weekend dance nights, as well as serving a diverse clientele. DJs spin five nights a week, featuring different genres like funk, soul, hip-hop, rock and reggae. Mathenge dubbed the venue “an artist's haven, a place where artists, poets, musicians and those who appreciate their work can meet, mingle and eat great food.” The emphasis on art was apparent in Cold Crush's central participation in this year's Colorado Crush street-art event.
Despite the owners' focus on inclusivity, this isn't the first high-profile shooting incident to occur at Cold Crush; in 2014, a shooting injured three people outside the club.
According to Mathenge, the club does focus on security while trying to create a welcoming space. "My purpose was to give a place for people who enjoy diversity. It's like, I don't want to blame it on anyone," he says. "Yes, the blame is on the gang violence, and I get that part. I had two cops and five security guards; we search people in and out the club. [But if] someone gets in a fight and they go to their car and come and shoot someone outside, that is out of my control."
Though recent shootings have occurred outside Denver nightclubs and in different nightlife districts such as LoDo, this is the first that has resulted in a closure. In July 2016, a shootout in a parking lot outside Beta resulted in one death and one injured party.
Mathenge says he is surprised by how quickly the city acted against the venue. "This has never happened before. They give you a chance, they talk to you. At Beta, at Club Vinyl, they have multiple shootings as the year goes by. This is ass-backwards. If this community is having problems, I don't want to use the word 'abandonment,' but that's what it feels like. I've been paying cops, over $5,000 a month in cop fees [for added security], and I didn't even get a phone call."
According to Mathenge, he has not been given a date for a hearing about the citation.
Mathenge reiterates that he's had a working relationship with law enforcement. "In no way, shape or form do I not like the police. The reason why I'm so upset with the Denver Police department is...it could have been handled a different way. Some of these cops who work for me and have conversations with me every day, they know me. The police are making it seem like I'm a bad guy who lets gangbangers come to his club; it's so far-fetched that it bothers me. Some of these cops came to my kid's birthday party. I'm not mad at those cops. I'm mad at the institution that's allowed this. Obviously, things need to be changed as far as more security and what have you."
The response to the fatal shooting has surprised Mathenge and other Denverites, who cite recent violent incidents at other venues that have not resulted in closure.
"I just don't get it," Mathenge says. "There have been so many shootings in town, and none of those places have been shut down. You're innocent until proven guilty. That recent shooting at Beta was in the parking lot. They counted over 200 shells. And they're open."
Since Westword broke news of Cold Crush's closure this afternoon, readers have responded questioning the city's decision.
Samantha Emerson wrote:
Have the police even considered the positive work Cold Crush has done? Why hasn't Sports Column and Soiled Dove been shut down since there've been numerous incidents at those places?
Mane Rok wrote:
More violence happens more regularly on Market between 19th and 20th, but the patrons. It's all about the patrons. Where's the councilman for this neighborhood at??? & which part of the neighborhood is he working for...?
Anwar Cato wrote:
Oh, okay— but the trash bars in LODO get to stay open, eh? Viewhouse, and many other LODO bars are worse and you dont hear them being "nuisances'...gee, I wonder why....hmmm....
Andrew Merlino encouraged fellow citizens to read up on what the citation means:
If you people take 3 minutes to go on the Internet and read the Denver municipal codes referred to in this citation you will see that the point of this is to get the establishment to put into place something to prevent this public nuisance from reoccurring before it reopens. In other words the city is trying to make this place safer for you people who go there.
According to Mathenge, the action against Cold Crush arises from its location in a rapidly developing neighborhood. "There are certain businesses in the RiNo district that don't like how we party. Sunday is more of our urban night.... The issue that they have is a lot of people come and gentrify RiNo and live in those nice buildings — they moved into a neighborhood that has always been plagued by gang violence. When they see something that doesn't conform to the norm to them, the answer is not come together as a community, the answer is: 'Get them out of there.'"
"RiNo is the hottest district in the country. It's the haves and the have-nots," he continues. "My third annual clothing drive is coming up, I feed the homeless, I spend $2,400 on school supplies for kids on the east side. You never hear, 'Hey, that guy Brian is a contribution to our community.' They say, 'Hey, they have violence at their club, let's stay away from them.'"
Besides the direct effect on his business and community, Mathenge feels this loss personally. "People who say Cold Crush is a bad place, this and that, it is totally false, totally wrong," he says. "I knew that kid [BossMan Goodie], and it broke my heart. For two days, I turned my phone off and just chilled with my kids."
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On Tuesday, October 11, the night before it was shut down, Cold Crush hosted a memorial and benefit show for Adair. Adair had been performing around Denver since 2015, including an opening slot for T-Pain. He leaves behind a young daughter, and a gofundme page has been set up to assist his family.
Reporting by Lindsey Bartlett and Katie Moulton.