License to Chill
"I guarantee you, if we don't get our liquor licenses because of anything you write, not only will your fucking paper be sued, but you will be sued personally. Everything you own will be gone."
Thus began my strange trip into the many worlds of Scottie Ewing. The former professional freeskier turned underground-party promoter turned swinger-club operator wasn't happy about the Westword article then in the works that would detail his ongoing quarrel with Denver's other sex-swapping hotspot, Scarlet Ranch ("Swap Talk," June 22). He also wasn't pleased about questions regarding his past connections with the local escort industry and an oddly analogous pimp profile that had been published last October by Boulder-based Skiing magazine, a story that Westword subsequently found to be more contradiction than truth ("a href="/Issues/2006-06-22/news/sidebar.html">Snow Job," June 22). But Ewing was most thoroughly pissed over my intention to write about an application filed under his girlfriend's name for a dance-cabaret liquor license -- which allows an establishment to sell alcohol while providing entertainment or dancing for its guests -- for a new nightclub at 1395 West Alameda Avenue, in southwest Denver.
"We're going to get our liquor license. There's not going to be any hurdles," Ewing said back in May. "The only reason people don't get liquor licenses is if there's opposition. If you put something in there that someone in the neighborhood association will easily misconstrue -- it takes one little thing like that, and then you fuck up my life."
Eventually, Ewing probably realized that he couldn't sue a newspaper for writing about a public hearing -- though he has since derided this "hack" journalist for "incompetent investigative skills" in postings on www.lifestylelounge.com. But the surly swinger was correct in his prediction that "Swap Talk" would raise the hackles of residents who live near the former boat-repair building that he envisions as an upscale tapas bar to be dubbed The Loft. (And never mind that the former Club Evolution, at 22nd and Champa streets, in the old home of Muddy's, recently reopened as The Loft.)
According to Richard Taylor of the Athmar Park Neighborhood Association, Ewing and his business partners met repeatedly with the homeowners' group and even offered a power-point presentation touting the benefits that the posh eatery and bar would provide the area, which is not exactly yuppie central. "He made it sound like a nice club," recalls Taylor, "but we wanted to make sure that whatever went in there was not the type of businesses that they had run in the past."
So the neighborhood group collected approximately 200 signatures from residents opposed to Ewing's venture, submitted those petitions to the city, then showed up by the dozens at the Department of Excise and Licenses hearing on the liquor-license application on August 9. Ewing had a lot riding on his ability to serve booze at his new business, he told the crowd. Sucking on a throat lozenge because of a hacking cough, he spoke poignantly of $750,000 already tied up in the project, and of how a brother-in-law had relocated his family from California to help operate The Loft. At the hearing, Ewing also presented a counter-petition with over 400 signatures from community residents in favor of his club.
Still, Taylor needled Ewing with questions about Ecstasy Fire's Erotic Eden Afterparty, a private swingers' event held on December 17, 2005, at 3648 Navajo Street, which Ewing was leasing as a purported arts gallery and coffee shop called the Seven Cafe and Art Lounge. Even though the space did not have a liquor license, the all-night party promised alcohol and group play for a $20 cover charge and managed to narrowly avoid violations because no direct cash-for-booze exchanges took place. (On February 1, Ewing's landlords, artists Chandler Romeo and Reed Weimer, evicted him for non-payment of rent. Ewing has countersued, and the case is set for trial in October.)
And when Taylor asked if similar, sexually charged parties would be held at The Loft, Ewing replied that he would not discriminate against any events as long as they stayed within the bounds of the law, adding simply, "I believe in capitalism."
On August 14, the hearing officer announced his recommendation that Ewing's application be approved, which gives opposing groups ten days to object to the decision. And the Athmar Park Neighborhood Association definitely isn't ready to accept its tapas-and-martini future just yet. Taylor is demanding an investigation into how the city managed to lose the opponents' petitions, which were submitted to the city on August 1 and were not available at the hearing date nine days later.
Department of Excise and Licenses director Stephanie O'Malley says she's received Taylor's complaint but cannot comment on an application while it is still under review.
The strange trip continues.
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