The fight over who gets to claim Denver's Civic Center Park on April 20 has grown into a giant clusterfuck in the eight months since 2017's Denver 420 Rally concluded, and now it looks like the "rally" aspect might be history.
After an exhaustive effort to attain the event permit for Civic Center Park on the weekend of April 20, 2018, the Euflora dispensary chain is finally in line for the date. But that doesn't mean it's a done deal.
The Denver 420 Rally's longstanding organizer, Miguel Lopez, and his associates were prohibited from getting the permit by the City of Denver after months of back-and-forth allegations over how the 2017 event was handled; complaints included overflowing trash cans, long security lines and broken fences at Civic Center Park. Lopez and his attorney, Rob Corry, had appealed the initial ban, but their efforts were rejected in November by a city hearing officer. Lopez is currently suing the City and County of Denver.
Euflora was a sponsor of the rally in 2017 and claims it had to loan money to Lopez's co-organizer, Santino Walter, to pay performers the day of the event, loans that have not yet been repaid. That was just one reason Euflora was upset about the Denver 420 Rally, and company officials decided to go for the permit itself. They had employees camp outside the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation office on Colfax Avenue starting in October, waiting for the day the city would accept event permit applications for April 20, 2018.
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However, neither Lopez nor Euflora were first in line. Michael Ortiz, an associate of Lopez's, beat Euflora staffers to the application window during the early hours of November 21, securing his permit's place at the top. Euflora's Bobby Reginelli was vocal about his displeasure with the city's handling of security and entrances to the Parks and Recreation building the previous evening, accusing Ortiz of slipping in through an unapproved entrance and being unclear with security about his application intentions. After weeks of deliberation, the city agreed with Reginelli, denying Ortiz's application on the grounds of "misrepresentations and deceit."
In a letter sent to Ortiz, Parks and Recreation executive director Allegra "Happy" Haynes outlined her department's reasoning behind the application denial, telling Ortiz it has evidence that he lied to gain access to the application window through an unapproved building entrance. She also charged that Ortiz filed the application on behalf of Lopez, citing video proof of Lopez and Ortiz filling out an application and Ortiz turning it in minutes later. Haynes also pointed out that Ortiz's name is misspelled at the top of the application, and that the application appears to be filled out in Lopez's handwriting.
Lopez and Ortiz deny Haynes's charges; they maintain that they were filling out an application for a different event. Corry, who represents both Lopez and Ortiz, says the City of Denver is "changing the rules of the game," adding that he believes it is working with Euflora to deny Ortiz the permit.
As Corry outlined his clients' responses to the City of Denver's claims in an email:
1. Michael Ortiz and Miguel Lopez have no formal business relationship regarding the 2018 event and permit
2. The video showing Miguel Lopez and Michael Ortiz together was for a permit to Cuernavaca Park, not Civic Center Park
3. The City of Denver stated that both doors would be allowed for potential 4/20 applicants to use to turn in permit application
4. Michael Ortiz did not deceive DPD in any manner, My client had multiple park applications that he attempted to turn in on 11/21. It was Parks and Recreation that only allowed him to turn in the 4/20 Civic Center Park Permit on 11/21
Corry says Ortiz had a $1.4 million package of secured financial commitments for the 2018 event, which he says was outlined in an email sent to Parks and Recreation; city officials subsequently "came from nowhere" to deny Ortiz's application. But according to Parks and Recreation communications director Cynthia Karvaski, Denver isn't obligated to notify an applicant that a denial is looming or probable.
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Determining that Ortiz had gotten the permit through inappropriate means, Parks and Recreation reissued it to Euflora late last week. The company won't officially receive the permit for months, but that's standard practice for event permits, according to Karvaski, who adds that Euflora is definitely the first applicant in line to hold an event at Civic Center Park on Friday, April 20.
Now that it looks like Euflora has won the fight for the park (pending any decision on the Lopez lawsuit), the company is planning some changes...and looking for partners and sponsors. With just over three months before April 20, Euflora organizers must scramble to put together something that will draw a crowd and change public opinions of cannabis culture, Reginelli says. "We're still exploring what else we can do with a 4/20 festival," he explains. "It could be sunrise meditation, yoga or drum circles at 5 a.m. We want to broaden the idea of what this has become."
Although "Denver 420 Rally" cannot be used as the event's name because it's trademarked by Lopez, Reginelli says the event won't be a rally, anyway.
"It was originally a rally, and we think that played an important role in what it is today," he explains, adding that the event had become more about music and vendors in the recent past. "All of Colorado looks at this event. We want to change the perception of what this has become. You can go to a concert any night of the week in Denver. It's not a rally anymore. This is a celebration."