Remember a couple years back when Jesse Morreale, out for one of his morning constitutionals, just up and decided he was going to buy the aging transient hotel at 3105 East Colfax, so he walked into the All-Inn with a silver Samsonite briefcase full of hundred dollar bills?
No? That’s because the real story behind Morreale’s acquisition of the All-Inn and subsequent construction of RockBar was much more workaday and boring, but I’ve been trying to flog the millions-in-a-briefcase version for years. I’ve also told people that he actually lives there—in a penthouse suite that he’s had made up like Charlton Heston’s post-apocalyptic zombie love nest from Omega Man—but no one buys that, either.
But now, Morreale has given me a perfect excuse to start making up all new stories about him with his acquisition of the quote/unquote historic 1st Avenue Hotel building at First and Broadway. Originally opened in 1905, the combination hotel/retail property has housed many businesses and was an operating hotel until the 1980s. It’s been vacant for the past few years, though, and currently is, in no uncertain terms, a shithole.
Perfect, then, for Morreale and his guys at M. Inc, who apparently have a thing for rescuing shitholes and turning them into weirdly retro hipster magnets. Back when the DNC was in town, I remember Morreale having a long, slurred and drunken discussion with actor Josh Lucas about the boutique hotel business. In the course of that conversation, it came out that Morreale has a huge hard-on for guys like Andre Balazs (who owns the Standard Hotel chain) and has his eye on that level of success—both in Denver and beyond.
To that end—and at a time when, apparently, Morreale is the only guy around able to shake loose any development capital—he has a plan for sinking $5 million into the joint (including an on-site restaurant for partner Sean Yontz) in an attempt to return the 1st Avenue Hotel to its former glory. As a matter of fact, he’s already started spending that money. Clean-up of the abandoned property is already under way and since, in Morreale’s own highly politic phrasing, he believes the apartment building space had been “compromised by transients,” they were hauling garbage out by the dumpster full. Twelve eighty-yard dumpsters, to be exact.
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“That’s 960 cubic yards of crap,” he said, helping me with the trash-math. And apparently, none of it was good stuff. Just really, really goddamn gross stuff.
He then went off on some weird jag about this enormous cat which he’d encountered there—big as a little horse, with one ear and battle scars. He told me that he thought the thing had probably been haunting the premises for a long time, surviving on pigeons and, perhaps, over-anxious hoteliers. But at that point, I was already starting to tune out, imagining the story I was going to make up this time. Something about him cruising over the city in his jewel-encrusted hovercraft, choosing the First and Broadway location as his new Fortress of Solitude like Superman in the first movie—seeding the ground with five mil from the Small Business Administration rather than Kryptonian freak crystals, then descending into the underworld to battle, mano-a-mano with some enormous, mutant housecat…
I don’t know. I’m still working on it. -- Jason Sheehan