It was not looking like a very happy new year for Foxes. In the preceding months the city had come down, hard, on the nightclub at Sixth Avenue and Bryant Street. The bar's neighbors--most of them businesses--in the largely industrial area just off Federal were complaining about garbage, about broken bottles, about finding feces on their property. Workers at the nearby Public Service Company warehouse claimed they filled a dumpster with debris every Monday morning.
In short, a good time was had by almost all.
On particularly wild nights, the complaints started long before the partying was over. The music broadcast over patio speakers was too loud and disturbed the two families that lived in the area. Drunks roamed the streets. And then there was that little matter of pelvic thrusts, as noted by a Denver undercover cop who just happened to be in the audience on Foxes's male-revue night.
After that, the owner of Foxes was ready to do just about anything to avoid getting shut down by the City of Denver.
Ready, even, to agree never again to advertise in Westword.
Which the city, in a document that makes constitutional lawyers do a little dance all their own, listed as one of the conditions of Foxes retaining its tavern and cabaret licenses. In the six-page Office of Excise and Licenses stipulation prepared by Assistant City Attorney John Poley and signed on January 11, 1996, by Foxes attorney James Beimford, the prohibition against Westword comes right before the ban of wet T-shirt contests. Perhaps the city attorney's office was simply working its way through the alphabet.
And perhaps the city attorney's office is all wet.
"The topic of Westword first came up six months ago," according to Beimford. A city official--maybe a cop, maybe an attorney; Beimford says he doesn't really remember--mentioned that Foxes needed to tone down its marketing and then said some uncomplimentary things about the primary place the club did that marketing: Westword. "The city was on top of Foxes," Beimford says. "In my memory, there was a general comment that the marketing had to be toned down."
Beimford recalled that conversation after the city filed a "show cause" order against Foxes in October. "They were looking for thirty-day closure," he says. "We countered with six days and a letter of what we would do."
Foxes was willing to do plenty to avoid that thirty-day closure--the equivalent of a death sentence in the volatile nightclub business. Beimford's letter outlined numerous changes Foxes could make--including the possibility that the club stop advertising in Westword, since that had seemed a thorny issue last summer.
The city took Beimford up on many of his suggestions, including the change in marketing. "Frankly," he says, "we agreed to things that are way above and beyond the call." But also frankly, he never expected the city to ban advertising in Westword--not in a legal document, at least. "I was surprised to see it," Beimford adds.
So are most people who read the Constitution, particularly the First and Fourteenth amendments. For a municipality to make such a written demand is almost unprecedented--and with good reason, they say. It provides clear grounds for a lawsuit against that municipality.
But Poley passes the buck right back to Beimford. "It was his suggestion," the assistant city attorney says. "It kind of caught me off-guard myself."
The problems at Foxes, Poley adds, had more to do with the clientele of the place than with the operation of the bar itself. There was plenty of underage drinking and fighting. The neighbors complained about the litter and the noise. "Every closing, they darn near had a riot there," Poley says. "We tried to get Foxes just to tone down."
Much of the city's stipulation involves added security measures at the club, including two uniforms patrolling the neighborhood and up to fourteen security personnel linked by "state-of-the-art two-way radios" on duty Friday nights. The restrooms are to have their own attendants. And an on-duty manager is to be available at a certain number at all times in order to respond to complaints; he is also required to "maintain immediate access to a telephone to call the Denver Police Department in the event a policeman is needed."
Requirements for trash removal--Foxes must send out a cleanup squad before 6:30 a.m. each weekend morning--and employee training are also spelled out. And then there are those alterations designed to "tone down" the place: "Marketing will be changed from Westword to a new paper with primary emphasis on the campuses serving the Auraria complex. Wet T-shirt contests shall not be allowed. No contests of any kind, specifically including dance contests involving patrons, shall be allowed."
The stipulation is signed by Beth McCann, the city's director of Excise and Licenses, who referred all questions about it to Poley.
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Wellington Webb named McCann the city's manager of Public Safety shortly after he was elected in 1991. But the police complained bitterly during her tenure, and two years ago she was installed in a new, cabinet-level position--at no cut in pay--as director of Denver's SafeCity program. There, however, she came in for bitter complaints from a variety of directions, particularly when she introduced her short-lived notion of a teen-curfew detention center at the Wash Park Rec Center ("Feel the Burn," July 13, 1994). After his re-election, Webb moved McCann to the relative safe harbor of Excise and Licenses.
Under its deal with McCann, Foxes was closed for ten days. It reopened last Thursday night--a little quieter, a little less crowded.
The city had taken out the trash.