Hundreds of people turned out for a rally on Monday, October 17, to show support for Cold Crush, the music venue and restaurant that was the site of a fatal shooting last week. The hip-hop-focused club was shut down on Wednesday, October 12, cited as a public nuisance for the unlawful discharge of a firearm.
In the days since the forcible closure, many patrons of Cold Crush have spoken out about the value of its diverse community in Denver and in the RiNo neighborhood.
Other business owners and residents of the RiNo neighborhood, however, have had concerns about incidents of violence at Cold Crush. Public documents obtained by Westword show conversations among members of the RiNo Arts District board, the Denver Police Department and one citizen that went on before the closure.
According to District 9 Councilman Albus Brooks, "There's a ton of support for Cold Crush, and there are also some people who fear it," which is what he says needs to be addressed. "Brian [Mathenge, co-owner of Cold Crush] is so helpful in the community," Brooks says. "He's aware of some people who attend his bar who cast it in a negative light."
On the morning of Monday, October 10, Jamie Licko, executive director of the RiNo Arts District, e-mailed boardmembers, as well as Brooks, notifying recipients of the shooting:
"I just got off the phone with District 2 Commander Calo...We were made aware that Cold Crush was a hot spot, both as a Crip hangout and as a place with consistent crime issues related to drugs and weapons.
Apparently, according to Cmdr. Calo, last night was Hip Hop Sunday night and this night has continuously provided issues for both the police and the ownership in terms of drawing a tough crowd."
Andy Templin, neighborhood resident since 2007, reached out to Brooks's office and Commander Mike W. Calo of District 2 about the incident:
"One unwelcome change has been the continued violence that has plagued the Cold Crush restaurant/bar since it opened.
No neighborhood needs the problems that Cold Crush has brought. ...As residents of the neighborhood, we are all afraid to walk by that intersection late in the evening because of the reputation of the past violence there."
Templin also suggested legal action against the venue: "Potential liquor license violation due to fighting/shooting? The place really needs to be shut down."
Calo replied to both Licko and Templin, indicating that the Denver Police Department Homicide Bureau is leading the investigation of the shooting, and that the DPD Gang Bureau/Vice & Narcotics Bureau under Commander James Henning has been "working the issues that arise at/near Cold Crush over the past few months."
Rexford Brown owns the Pattern Shop Studio, one of the neighborhood's earliest arts centers; Brown and his wife, Sharon, bought and renovated the building at 3349 Blake Street in 1991. In an e-mail to members of the RiNo board and Brooks, Brown recalled that many years ago, the Upper Larimer Neighborhood "engaged with business owners whose businesses had negative impacts on the hood and created Letters of Agreement about responsibilities for cleanup and public safety." He added:
"We've got to talk to them [owners or landlord], along with our legal counsel. The last thing RiNo needs is a magnet for gangsters. They've ruined LoDo and they'll ruin RiNo."
Josh Fine, executive vice president and general counsel of Focus Property Group LLC, agreed that the RiNo Arts District board should "engage ownership of Cold Crush to make sure they implement measures to prevent further crimes at their establishment."
According to Brian Mathenge, co-owner of Cold Crush, neither he nor his partners have met with members of the RiNo Arts District. But a meeting is set for Wednesday, October 19, with Brooks, a city attorney, a representative from DPD, Mathenge and Andrew Feinstein, co-chair of the RiNo Arts District.
Feinstein, who's also a co-owner of Exdo Events Center, Tracks Nightclub and Jake's Sports & Spirits, says that he has been in regular communication with Mathenge since the shooting, "as a friend, a fellow bar owner, and co-chair of the district."
"RiNo at large is very supportive of Cold Crush," Feinstein says, stating that he wants to make clear that despite some residents' concerns, this "is not RiNo versus Cold Crush." He continues, "I think Cold Crush represents a lot of what RiNo is about — artistic expression, inclusiveness. I'm very confident that we'll figure out what we need to do as a family."
Brooks does not believe that pressure from community groups led directly to the closure of Cold Crush. "Any time we see a death in the city, I think the city makes overtures [to prevent more violent crime]," Brooks says. “There needed to be more conversation. The investigation should have taken place before the club was shut down.”
Additional reporting by Lindsey Bartlett.