Mutiny Information Café Seized by City of Denver | Westword

Mutiny Information Cafe Seized by City

Financial woes threaten the creative heart of Denver.
Mutiny Information Cafe, with its door open, as it should be.
Mutiny Information Cafe, with its door open, as it should be. GoFundMe
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The building that houses Mutiny Information Cafe has been seized by the City of Denver for unpaid  taxes. It happened, as these things tend to, both after a long slog and all of a sudden. But for now the doors are closed, and they will remain so until Mutiny comes to terms with the city...or the default becomes permanent and Mutiny is no more.

In quick response to the seizure, Mutiny set up a GoFundMe page late on September 22, with a goal of raising the $42,126 needed to settle its financial obligation to the city. By mid-afternoon today, donations had already topped $24,000 in pledges...and counting. "It's overwhelming," says Mutiny co-owner Jim Norris. "I feel terrible for having to ask. It's been a comedy of errors getting to where we are right now. Now we're in this sort of Blues Brothers situation."

“Coming out of COVID has been hard on all small businesses and humans across the world,” the GoFundMe page notes, describing some of the reasons for Mutiny's current situation: not only the pandemic, but disruptions caused by co-owner Matt Megyesi’s near-fatal heart attack earlier this year. While the GoFundMe doesn’t mention it, the chaos caused by the summertime vandalism of the front of the store couldn’t have helped, either.

“We had no idea this was coming,” Norris says of the city's seizure over the delinquent sales tax bill. “We’d gotten some letters, but I thought I had some time.”

But at around 1 p.m. September 22, city representatives showed up with a locksmith. “I had to get my cat out,” says Norris. “It would have been comical if it wasn’t so sad, me trying to load up a cat carrier and a beer cooler with some of my personal stuff.”

"The city’s preference is for our local, small businesses to succeed and remain open, and distraint warrants are only issued when other options for collection taxes owed to the City and County of Denver have been exhausted," explains Josh Rosenblum, spokesman with the Denver Department of Finance. "If the delinquent taxes are paid, the city will rescind the distraint warrants."

Norris acknowledges that the city had come by Mutiny once a week for the last couple of weeks, leaving a card behind for him to get in touch regarding outstanding sales taxes that then topped just $31,000, but with all the things going on with Mutiny, he just hadn’t gotten around to calling them back. “I was stunned,” Norris says. “It doesn’t seem like a number you’d seize a business for, especially considering how many other businesses have back taxes that are significantly higher than this.”

As unexpected as the city's move may have been, Norris is quick to take responsibility for the situation. “It happened on my watch, you know?” he says. “I got caught up just trying to keep up. That’s all I’ve been doing since January.”

Norris is currently talking about his options with both the city and a tax attorney who volunteered to help. While Mutiny has thirty days to settle the debt — specifically, in the form of a lump-sum cashier’s check — it could also petition the city for a change of heart, which the GoFundMe page promises “you can best believe we will.”

The building at 2 South Broadway has been a lot of things since its construction in 1904: a service station, a grocery, a drug store, a soda fountain, even a dance studio. Books have been the main focus since the 1980s, though, culminating in Mutiny, a supportive haven for creatives of all types. The GoFundMe page itemizes some of them, though the actual list is endless: “LGBTQ+, anarchists, punks, hiphoppas, nerds, sex workers, writers, comedians, artists, oddballs, goofballs, etc.”

“I don’t know that I’d have become a full-time artist without Mutiny,” says Denver writer, artist and Regis professor R. Alan Brooks, who adds that it “created a place where the arts community can be embraced, loved, and connected to each other. There’s no place like it in the city, and their love for the community is boundless.”

Local author Hillary Leftwich agrees: “When I moved to Denver in 2006, Mutiny quickly became my local support system. I’ve had so much support and love from Mutiny and the artists who have been connected with Mutiny since then. I’ve always tried to give back what they’ve given to me, but that would be impossible. They have survived when so many other local businesses haven’t. They’ve lost friends who have been valuable both in friendship and community. They survived the pandemic. They are, in many ways, the heart connecting many local businesses, artists, and people together within the Denver community. Now it’s our turn to save them.”

Brooks and Leftwich are two of the Colorado creatives listed on the GoFundMe page's quick and admittedly incomplete list of artists hosted by Mutiny over the years. Others include "Jessica Halpine, Karl Krumpholz, Meca’Ayo Cole, Go Go Germaine, Katie Bowman…Brandon Allen, Erin K Barnes, Zack Kopp, TJ Little, Vincent Cheap, Casey Donelle Dubois, Spells, Ben Roy, King Rat…Ravi Zupa, Jack Jensen, Lily Fangz, Jeff Stonic (DeadRoom Comedy), Thomas Detour Evans, Addison Herron-Wheeler, Shannah Makes Stuff, Heart in Box Vintage, Chingon Pinz, SmallBoiFunk (and everyone from Fr8 Heavy Freestyles), Black Market Translation (and everyone from Punketry)...”. That this is only a slice of the community that Mutiny has supported is a testament to its importance in Denver’s artistic landscape, and what a loss it would be to all of Denver and beyond were Mutiny to disappear.

Norris stresses that one of his immediate concerns is for his staff. "It's probably the best staff I've ever had for any business. People see that there's something bigger going on," he says. "It's more than just a business. Everybody at the store knows that."

As does everybody who's ever been inside this store.

"Please be patient while we work this out," Mutiny concludes in its online post. "It's been a helluva year. We love you all."

To help Mutiny Information Cafe, go to the GoFundMe page; for more information on the store and its history, check out the Mutiny website.

This story has been updated to include quotes and information from an interview with Jim Norris, as well as a comment from the city.
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