Up in Smoke: Jay Bianchi's Be on Key Psychedelic Ripple Catches Fire

Be on Key Psychedelic Ripple caught fire on May 27.
Be on Key Psychedelic Ripple caught fire on May 27. Jon Solomon
Grateful Dead entrepreneur Jay Bianchi is having a rough few weeks. 

First, a month ago, his bar Sancho’s Broken Arrow was closed indefinitely for violating the City and County of Denver's stay-at-home order. Last week, Be on Key Psychedelic Ripple was closed because customers were eating and drinking on site, also violating city policies. And then early this morning, May 27, as 9News first reported, Be on Key went up in flames, and more than fifty firefighters showed up to put out the blaze.

“It probably started in the green room,” Bianchi told Westword. “Some crackheads probably broke into the green room and were sleeping there. They probably woke up after doing their crack, and they saw a fire and then they left.”

Bianchi says he got a call about the fire at 6 a.m. this morning and then went over to survey the damage. There was some smoke and water damage to the green room, but Bianchi says none of the venue’s Grateful Dead posters in the main room were harmed. He also says the fire didn't affect his other venue next door, Owsley's Crazy Diamond, which opened a year ago in the former Avenue Theater space.

While Bianchi says he’s not happy about the damage to the Be on Key green room, he’d been pondering putting a kitchen in the same part of the building, which would mean destroying that room and completely redoing it.

“I guess I try to look at the bright side of stuff...even if I’m in a Franz Kafka novel or something like that,” he says.

Between the closures and the fire, Bianchi says he's being tested.

"I feel like sometimes I'm in The Truman Show, and they're just like, ‘Okay, this is fucked up, but let's see what else we can add to his life to fuck it up more.”

Sometimes he worries the universe is telling him to get out of the bar business, but then he thinks of all the bad stuff that happened to Job in the Bible, and he still had hope.

“Sometimes I'm just thinking the world's against me and it's telling to me to pack up and go,” he says. “But then sometimes I feel like I should be here when people are back, because I think our place gives people hope.”
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Jon Solomon writes about music and nightlife for Westword, where he's been the Clubs Editor since 2006.
Contact: Jon Solomon