Tommie Ellis, Status Ultra Lounge's general manager, is the latest person to take a crack at the space, with the goal of bringing a different, more upbeat feel to that part of the city. Ellis loves the neighborhood, he says, but thinks it could use an infusion of the atmosphere found elsewhere — he mentions Meadowlark Bar at 2701 Larimer Street as showcasing the type of music he hopes will be played at the club.
"A little wild" might be a bit of an understatement, considering that chaos reigned on opening day for the fledgling club, and the surrounding area has had more than its fair share of problems in the short time since.
Granted, New Year's Eve can be a problematic night to launch in Denver, especially considering that the Downtown Denver Partnership was estimating that 15,000 people were headed to the area to celebrate and watch the city's fireworks shows.
Although Status Ultra had security guards and an off-duty Denver Police Department officer scheduled, Ellis says the security team got there later than it should have and hadn't set up a line system before the crowd came, which resulted in a bottleneck at the door and people sitting down on the street or sidewalk while they waited to get in. In fact, there were so many people clogging the space just outside the club that at least two other bars nearby, Pony Up and Seven Grand, closed early to avoid unsafe interactions between their patrons and the Status Ultra crowd.
Status ultra owners Jessie Mack, Gabriel Lindsay and Neelin Shead declined to comment, instead pointing to Ellis as their spokesperson.
Ellis says he’s also endeavoring to keep the neighborhood in mind by remaining closed on Sundays until he can figure out the live-music setup, and then when the club does open those nights, it will close by 11 p.m. instead of staying open until 2 a.m. Status Ultra will also offer themed evenings of R&B, music from the 2000s, reggaetón and DJs on weekends to give the place more structure, he says. Ellis plans to offer food during the day and throughout the week to brand the space as a restaurant as well as a nighttime destination, and notes he’s in the process of creating the menu.
The City of Denver had attempted to preemptively mitigate any problems that Status Ultra Lounge might bring to the area after residents testified at a November 16 hearing over the business’s licensing, urging the city to consider not allowing the club to hold a cabaret license. The cabaret license was ultimately approved, with conditions to address the needs of the surrounding community.
“The Licensee shall operate its business in such a manner that noise emanating from the premises is not plainly audible after 10 PM within nearby residential units as defined by Section 38-101 of the City of Denver Revised Municipal Code,” the licensing decision reads.
Because of his time in the industry, Ellis says he's aware of what can happen if a business becomes the subject of scrutiny from police or other city agencies. — and he points to an example less than a block away: Beta, formerly an EDM club, at 1909 Blake Street. After the club was taken over by Valentes Corleons — who recently shared his intention to run for mayor of Denver but never formally filed — it became more hip-hop-focused before eventually being shut down by the city and declared a public nuisance for a laundry list of violations.
Ellis says he’s determined not to let Status Ultra Lounge, which is fully Black-owned, become another failed hip-hop club. Though he believes that many of the issues at Onyx weren’t the fault of the establishment, he notes that “a lot of people aren't doing what they're supposed to do” in the hip-hop club space. He insists that Status Ultra Lounge will be different.
“I don't want it to be 'status' in the sense of 'I'm better than you,' but that everyone's on the same status,” Ellis says of the club’s name. “Somebody might get jealous. This guy has this bottle, and they can't. I don't want to create that environment. Most of the nightclubs out here that have been shut down — from Beta to even stuff at Native, Purple Martini, Mojito Lounge — they get shut down because of those kinds of people that are in the club. What I want to do here is create a space where everybody is just here to have a good time."
Ultra Lounge, he adds, is a term many in the industry are using to signify that the place is a club, but with a better connotation.
“In general, regarding the business aspect of an investigation, Denver Police works with Denver Excise & Licenses to investigate if there is a licensing violation or if it appears the business was directly or indirectly involved in the violence that occurred,” according to a DPD spokesperson. “Such a determination has not been made at this stage of the investigation.” The DPD also says that because the case is still under investigation, there are no police reports available for release — and according to Excise & Licenses, there are no pending disciplinary actions against Status Ultra Lounge.
“I can say whatever I want to anybody, and it can be true or not be true unless you actually come in and experience what I'm telling you,” he says. “That's the best way for anyone that has any hesitations about this new space: to come and experience it.”
Meanwhile, until the food menu is ready, Status Ultra Lounge will be open Thursday through Saturday starting at 9 p.m.