It's a fresh start for a hotel that's had a rough ride over the last two decades.
In the late '90s, former FBI agent Tom Broemmel and his wife, Lani Lee, moved here from North Carolina and renovated the turn-of-the-last century warehouse into a B&B with theme rooms, including one dedicated to the Broncos. As thanks for taking on this task, they were promptly threatened with a lawsuit by LoDo's Bar & Grill for using the LoDo name. They weathered that challenge, but soon faced another.
On September 29, 2000, man calling himself Ali Patrik Pahlavi arrived in Denver by train and headed straight for the LoDo Inn. His luggage and $12,000 had been stolen, Pahlavi said: Could Broemmel possibly give him a room for the night and loan him $500? He was good for it, Pahlavi promised; after all, he was the billionaire nephew of the late Shah of Iran. (Never mind that the real Pahlavi — and yes, there was one — spelled Patrick with a "c" and was tall and blond rather than short and dark, and considerably older than this one.) Broemmel agreed to help him out.
As thanks, two days later, Pahlavi was back at the LoDo Inn with a proposal: His company, Eagle Spirit Investments, was going to build a twenty-story, 500 room hotel in downtown Denver. Perhaps Broemmel might like to invest? The rest of the money would be coming soon — and in the meantime, Pahlavi would need a place to stay.
What followed were two of the wildest months in LoDo history, as we reported in "The Shah Was a Sham," our February 8, 2001 cover story. And that's saying something, since a century before, this part of town was the jumping-off point for some of the biggest con men in the West, including the legendary Soapy Smith, who conned suckers into thinking there might be hundred-dollar bills in the bars of soap they were buying. Before it was over, businesses across LoDo were owed money by Pahlavi; the savvy waitresses at the now defunct Dixons Downtown Grill across the street were among the first to suspect the person they'd come to think of as "the con man formerly known as Prince." But by the time Pahlavi was unmasked, Broemmel was out hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Pahlavi wound up checking into prison on a 42-month sentence. The hotel where he'd lived so high on the hog was sold to investor Jon Hamilton, and reopened in 2003 as Luna, a nineteen-room boutique hotel whose amenities included a crepe shop named Velocity and a basement restaurant called Flow, which boasted chef Duy Pham in the kitchen when it opened that May. But Pham was gone just a few months later, and a crew from Tuk Tuk was reported to be taking over the space.
Instead, the building was transformed into the Jet Hotel, which opened in 2006. XO, a noodle bar, opened in 2009 and closed not long after; that basement space became the Jet Lounge. That same year, homegrown chain Swing Thai opened a fourth location on the first floor of the Jet. To make sure Swing Thai fared better than previous eateries, Buddhist monks performed a blessing there before it opened.
It didn't help. The doors of LoDo's Swing Thai swung shut before the Jet Hotel itself did, in early 2013.
Enter the NATIV, which has a grand opening set for this weekend. Here's how the website introduces the place:
Set in the heart of Denver’s trendy LoDo district, NATIV is a feast for the senses. A creative cocktail of sophistication and playfulness. A hotel with style, luxury, and five-star service. Once you experience it, you will never want to leave. From our well-appointed rooms to our celebrity chef-driven menus and energy-charged nightlife, we promise to excite every single one of your senses. THIS is NATIV.The building that now houses the NATIV Hotel has quite a past, but its pot-friendly concept could be just the formula for future success.