Art News

Mutiny Information Cafe Is Back After Community Fundraising Efforts

Jim Norris, with gratitude and relief
Jim Norris, with gratitude and relief YouTube
Not all stories have happy endings. But Mutiny Information Cafe’s latest tribulation will: Less than a week after being seized by the City of Denver for uncollected back sales taxes, the Denver counterculture institution will open its doors again Wednesday, September 28, at noon.

“We’re relieved, as you might imagine,” says Jim Norris, one of Mutiny’s co-owners. “Relieved and humbled.”

Things moved quickly once word broke of Mutiny’s sudden forced closure. The locks were changed in the early afternoon of Thursday, September 22. A GoFundMe campaign was established late that same evening, asking for the community’s help in meeting the emergent need to pay the city tax bill. Word went out on Facebook and through media sources (including Westword) that the challenge was on, and several supporters from the arts community helped amplify the call to action. Once the outpouring of financial support began, it only seemed to grow.

Before the campaign was 24 hours old, enough cash had been raised to pay the tax bill ($42,126) and then some. The total currently sits just shy of $60,000.

Norris admits he’s still processing the level of generosity the Denver arts community showed, especially in such a short time. “I don’t know, man,” he says. “It's an intangible thing, why that many people would stand up for the store. My best guess is just that people need a safe spot for creative people of all kinds.”

One of the biggest donors was another of Denver’s booksellers — The Hermitage Bookstore in Cherry Creek, which donated $5,000. General manager Sam Butler says the store did it out of both heart and duty. “The independent bookstore community is tight,” Butler says. “It would have left too big a hole in the city’s literary community if we were to lose Mutiny.”

“I’m blown away by what the Hermitage did,” Norris admits. “When I first moved to Denver, with my English writing degree, I’d go down to the old Tattered Cover. And they probably didn’t want a dirty-ass kid like me coming in there, but I went to the Hermitage, too. So their support was a big, beautiful surprise.”

Norris says that he and co-owner Matt Megyesi plan to visit the store on Fillmore to say thank you in person.
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R. Alan Brooks in front of Mutiny...and the reminder: "Small business isn't the fucking problem. Devour the rich."
In terms of explaining the support of local artists, including Josiah Hesse, R. Alan Brooks and Hillary Leftwich, several of whom were featured in various local news reports on the closure of Mutiny, Norris demurs. “All I’ve ever encouraged anyone to do is not to have a regular day job,” he laughs. “Whatever it takes to do that, do it. Write, make music, whatever you can do.”

To celebrate the reopening of Mutiny and the generosity of spirit that made it possible, Norris and Megyesi are planning a bash on Saturday, October 29, at the Oriental Theater.

“It’ll be free, of course,” Norris says, adding that they’re still working out the details. But there will be bands (all local bands, many with Mutiny ties, including Bolonium), a costume party and giveaways. “It was really awesome of the Oriental to donate that space,” Norris says, “so we can really have room to do what we want to do and celebrate all the people that helped us out.”

While the GoFundMe campaign has done its work, Mutiny Information Cafe still needs the support of the community in the ongoing effort to build back to full strength. Even prior to the tax bill coming due, Norris and Megyesi hadn’t drawn a paycheck since April in an attempt to get the store back into solvency after the pandemic, as well as a serious health scare for Megyesi and more than one instance of vandalism that cost significant money to repair.

“All of our usual stuff is back on as of now,” Norris promises. That means poetry night, First Friday pinball night, Gundam Build Nights, and Mutiny Comics’ Whatnot Auctions every Saturday.

This Friday, September 30, at 6 p.m., Mutiny will present one of the many author-focused events it's hosted over the years — one that had to be canceled temporarily when the store was shut down but is now back on. Local writer Zack Kopp will launch his new book, Happiness, and the evening will include readings, discussions, a musical performance by Molly Growler, vendors and more.

Norris describes the experience of Mutiny’s salvation as “the rise of the creative class. We can keep our money inside our own circles. I can sell a copy of a book and turn around and use that as a tip at a tattoo shop, and then that money can go to buy art from a local artist. I’d just encourage everyone to keep that idea going. It’s how we’re going to take care of each other.”

And in the end, this whirlwind began and ended with people, according to Norris. “We just want everybody to come back,” he says. “Come back and make yourselves at home again. We'll be spending the rest of our careers working to pay back this goodwill.”

Mutiny Information Cafe, 2 South Broadway, opens at noon on Wednesday, September 28; starting Thursday, September 29, it returns to a 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. schedule. For more information on the store, see its website.
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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen

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