Denver Venue Roxy on Broadway Deals With Break-In, Creates GoFundMe | Westword

Roxy on Broadway Deals With Break-In, Creates GoFundMe

"The saving grace to all of this is just how incredible our community is."
Roxy on Broadway is a music venue as well as a restaurant.
Roxy on Broadway is a music venue as well as a restaurant. Courtesy of Paula Vrakas
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"December was our first month since COVID that we actually felt like we were getting on top of things," says Paula Vrakas, owner of the Roxy on Broadway.

And then came the break-in during the early-morning hours of Sunday, January 7. Later that day, the live-music venue and restaurant at 554 South Broadway posted the bad news on Instagram: An intruder had broken into the Roxy around 4 a.m. and started to trash the place, grabbing a blowtorch and starting small fires. By the time the police and fire department arrived, the suspect was nowhere to be seen, but his rampage had created enough wreckage to force the Roxy to close for three days. The suspect has not been caught, and the Roxy is actively working with police and detectives.

When Vrakas saw the footage, she recognized the individual immediately. "To start off, this gentleman has been in the building three different times," she explains. "The first time he was in here for probably longer than he should have been...and he was asked to leave kindly. The second time, same thing: leave kindly. The other time, he actually followed my kitchen guys in the morning, but again, left kindly.

"But this time, at four in the morning, he'd broken through the back kitchen door and proceeded to make himself at home," Vrakas adds. The man inadvertently cut himself on the way in, so he was a little bloody at the start of his party, which included pulling "multiple bottles off the shelves" and trying to "get in our cash register," the owner says. "There's fortunately no cash in our register," she adds.

click to enlarge
A screen capture of the intruder.
Courtesy of Paula Vrakas
"And then he touched a bunch of food, made himself dinner and then found the torch for our crème brûlées," Vrakas continues. "He took that torch, lit a fire pole on fire, vandalized a bunch of stuff in the back, started torching the building outside, torched our Xcel meter, then walked up and down the alleys torching people's garages.

"I mean, thank God he didn't torch anything inside, especially now knowing this insurance situation," she adds.

Vrakas explains that the Roxy only has general liability and liquor liability insurance. "So basically, anything that happens to anyone else's property is covered, or if someone was to get hurt inside, that's covered, or if someone was to get into an accident after drinking here, that is covered. But nothing that is ours is covered," she says."No loss of wages, no loss of product and no help replacing anything that needs to be replaced — for example, the back door."

The Roxy opened back up on Wednesday, January 10, but because insurance won't cover the damage, the venue set up a GoFundMe, hoping to raise $5,000. Vrakas estimates the venue lost about $12,000 in the days it was closed, and says she will use the GoFundMe to cover product losses and staff wages, "and then give [staff] a little bit extra to be like, 'I love you guys, thanks for sticking this out with us,'" she says. She also created a link for people to contribute gift cards to staff.

"What I'm most concerned about and what I will always be most concerned about is my staff, my family, and making sure that while this is obviously a hit to all of us and we're all taking it very personally, no one should have to suffer financially because of what this guy did," she adds.

Vrakas, who owns another Roxy in San Diego, moved to Denver in 2019. She opened the Mile High location that same year, in the space once occupied by the club Syntax Physic Opera. The pandemic forced the Roxy to close twice; 2023 was its first full year in operation. That makes the break-in all the more devastating, but Vrakas says it is part of a pattern of escalating violence on South Broadway.

"Someone threw a brick through our front door just over the holiday, and when they caught him, a cop asked him, 'Did you throw a brick through Roxy?' and he said, 'Yep.' The cop said, 'Why?'" Vrakas recalls. "He said, 'Because I felt like it.'"

click to enlarge man burning a building with blowtorch
The intruder using the blowtorch at the back of the building.
Courtesy of Paula Vrakas
She believes that the most recent intruder chose the Roxy because the venue was always respectful to him. She compares it to the phrase "If you give them an inch, they take a mile."

"I think we were kind to him and we asked him kindly to remove himself," instead of just booting him, Vrakas says. "My chef gave him a cigarette and Sprite, and our neighbor, Bruno, gave him breakfast one day. We would let him shelter from the wind during the day on our patio. I think we were too nice, and he viewed that as a weakness, something that could be exploited."

Given the erratic extent of the attack on Roxy, Vrakas thinks that drugs were likely involved on top of mental illness, though she notes that the footage never showed the man using drugs — just lighting a cigarette with the blowtorch. "This guy clearly has psychological issues," she says. "Those can be treated, but if you add drugs on top of that, it's like putting a match to a can of kerosene."

Now that Roxy is back open for business (with an upgraded security system), Vrakas says the club is moving onward and upward. She says she's been incredibly moved by the surrounding community's response to the break-in, and the overwhelming support she and her venue have received.

"The saving grace to all of this is just how incredible our community is," she concludes. "I'm not a very emotional human, but I cried multiple times just reading the responses on Instagram, on Facebook, and from the people that have emailed, reached out and sent in footage. It's just really awesome."

Contribute to the GoFundMe here.
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