Forced to Move, Cold Crush Owner Aims to Evict Southside Bar and Kitchen

Cold Crush is slated to be out of its current location at 2700 Larimer Street in RiNo by the end of October, after the building’s landlord didn’t agree to extend the lease of the venue/bar. Now Cold Crush owner Brian Mathenge is trying to evict Southside Bar and Kitchen from the building it rents at 3014 East Colfax Avenue, which Mathenge bought in April 2016, in hopes of moving Cold Crush there.

John Elliott, who opened Southside with partners in September 2014, has refused to leave; there are still two years left on the lease, he points out. But Mathenge is taking Elliott to court next week to pursue eviction, claiming Southside failed to pay rent, damaged property, didn't finish electrical work and never paid the plumbing bill. “In his contract, he’s supposed to take care of everything in the building,” Mathenge says. “He refuses to do so.”

Elliott says that he’s been paying the rent and that “their argument about rent is that there’s a rent-escalation scale in the original lease that was amended when he purchased the building and a new base-rate rent was set. We paid that new base-rate rent that was set by the building owners at the time.”

The electrical issues in question were present when Mathenge bought the building and received a $15,000 price concession to pay for repairs, but the problems were never addressed, adds Elliott, who argues that the electrical repairs are the landlord’s responsibility. “We have the documentation to prove again he is erroneous in his assertions," he says.

Elliott also says the building needed a backflow-prevention device that’s required by the City of Denver, which should have been covered by the owner, but Elliott paid for the installation anyway. “He wanted to pass that on to us based upon something in the lease about plumbing repairs,” Elliott says. “This isn’t a repair. It’s an installation.”

The attempt at eviction “boils down to Brian being ticked off that we did not accept a lowball offer from him back in the spring to get us out of the building and the fact that we have a lock-tight lease in place until 2019," argues Elliott, who says he declined Mathenge's verbal offer because it was not high enough.

“I said, ‘We will consider it,’" Elliott continues. “I’ll take it back to talk with my then two partners. Now I have one partner because I bought the other one out. I came back and said, ‘Put it in writing.' Thirty-one days later I got it in writing, and they had changed most of the terms of the deal to include that we had to give them our liquor license and we had to give them all the fixtures and the equipment. And we could not sell through the inventory. We pretty much had to freeze everything and just hand it over to them.”

Mathenge says Elliott is “a piece of shit who makes deals and then backs out on them. He’s a money grubber, and he’s a liar. Everything that comes out of that guy’s mouth is a complete fucking lie. When I was trying to buy him out, we actually made a deal, and when we found we had to move, he tried to raise the deal by $100,000, because we shook hands in front of witnesses on the deal, and then he backed out of the deal.”

Elliott says he’d still be open to selling the business if they could sit down and talk about a reasonable number based on data, sales figures and comps in the neighborhood. “Let’s figure out a number, and Brian’s thing is, ‘This is what I’m going to pay you, and you’re going to give me everything, and you’re going to get the fuck out my way,’” Elliott says. “That is verbatim what he said during one of our meetings prior to this.”
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Jon Solomon writes about music and nightlife for Westword, where he's been the Clubs Editor since 2006.
Contact: Jon Solomon