The disciplinary action stems from a 4/20 event during which approximately six people were cited for public cannabis consumption on Cheba Hut's patio by undercover Denver Police Department officers. Although Cheba Hut — a sandwich restaurant known for its marijuana puns on the menu — didn't promote the event as consumption-friendly, the restaurant's owners still received a letter from Excise and Licenses on March 30 reiterating the laws banning public pot consumption and outlining the ramifications that Cheba Hut could face as a liquor licensee if it was found to have violated those laws.
To put events like Cheba Hut's to the test, Denver will send undercover police officers to see if security or management are allowing public consumption. Because Cheba Hut failed that test, its owners or legal representatives will have to explain why its location at 638 East Colfax Avenue should keep its liquor license at a hearing in August.
In an interview with Westword in May, a co-owner of this Cheba Hut location, David Timmons, said that certified security staff had been checking IDs and monitoring the restaurant for any public pot consumption during the event, but were distracted performing other duties when attendees began smoking pot on the patio. Timmons won't comment on the show-cause order or Cheba Hut's upcoming hearing, but he and his bar manager were both issued citations on April 20 for complicity in relation to their customers' public-consumption violations. The bar manager's citation was dropped, according to Timmons, who says he has to perform twelve hours of community service to satisfy the legal consequences of his citation.
A city hearing officer will make a recommended decision to Excise and Licenses director Ashley Kilroy after reviewing evidence and listening to testimony, with ten days for Cheba Hut to appeal the hearing officer’s decision, according to Excise and Licenses communications director Eric Escudero. Kilroy will make a final decision after reviewing the evidence and recommended decision, he adds, and Cheba Hut can appeal her decision in Denver District Court.
Although Kilroy didn't comment on the specifics of the Cheba Hut case, her outlook on the small number of public-consumption citations on 4/20 was optimistic. “We are very pleased to see so many good actors in Denver who are enforcing marijuana public consumption laws at their businesses," she says in a statement. "Despite the surge of marijuana consumers who arrived in Denver for 4/20 activities, only one establishment with a liquor license was found in violation of Denver’s marijuana public consumption laws. Our work with Denver businesses to educate them about marijuana public consumption laws is paying off.”
The seventy-plus public consumption citations that were issued during the Mile High 420 Festival at Civic Center Park, a city-owned property, didn't take place at an establishment with a liquor license.
Read the March 30 warning letter sent from Excise and Licenses to Cheba Hut below: