High-End Jazz Club Could Be Coming to Market Street

1448 Market Street could become LIV Denver.
1448 Market Street could become LIV Denver. Conor McCormick-Cavanagh
Market Street could soon be home to a high-end jazz venue — five blocks from the legendary, now-defunct El Chapultepec.

On May 3, a Denver Department of Excise and Licenses hearing officer recommended that the proposed venue, LIV Denver, receive a liquor license with permission for a dance cabaret at 1448 Market Street, the home of many other clubs in the past.

But the hearing officer, Ryan H. Brand, also recommended that certain restrictions be placed on the license. The most significant ones focus on noise levels, when and where amplified music can be allowed, when patrons can dance, and security guard requirements.

Molly Duplechian, executive director of the Department of Excise and Licenses, will have the final say on whether LIV Denver, which would be owned and operated by Yimaj "Steve" Kalifa, a Washington, D.C.-based restaurateur, will receive its license. According to the recommended decision, Kalifa testified during an April 15 liquor-license hearing that he intends to operate LIV Denver as a "high-end jazz bar and lounge," with a "jazz show up to two times per night." Kalifa also plans to serve brunch, lunch and dinner, and offer cocktails throughout the day.

"Mr. Kalifa expects to serve excellent but expensive cuisine, and expects his patrons to be the 55-and-older crowd," Brand noted in his write-up, adding that Kalifa is under contract to purchase the building.

The recommended license restrictions could help mitigate some of the concerns expressed by neighbors during the licensing hearing; they said they worried that the club might have safety and nuisance issues like those that plagued a previous tenant, Dorchester Social, and other venues operated by people connected with Dorchester Social, such as the neighboring Mojito Cafe and the now-closed Beta.

"Despite these concerns, Applicant is not the Mojito Cafe, and certainly not Dorchester or Beta. As established by the Applicant, it intends a very different type of business from those licensees. Mr. Kalifa testified credibly. Applicant will offer high-end cuisine at a similarly high price point, and will offer brunch, lunch, and dinner. Dancing will be limited, Special Event Permits will be applied for as needed, and the music played by the Applicant will be jazz and blues performed or played at reasonable volumes and intended to contribute to its dining and lounge atmosphere," Brand wrote.

Don Ku, chair of the Good Neighbor Committee for the Lower Downtown Neighborhood Association, helped craft the various restrictions that Brand recommended putting in place. But he acknowledges that some neighbors still don't want any type of cabaret-style venue in that building, which is owned by Ray Jafari.

"It’s been vacant for quite some time now. Having somebody fill that space is good. Having somebody who said they’re not going to be a nightclub is also good. You never know, if we reject these guys, the next person who wants it may want it to be a nightclub," says Ku, who lives nearby.

According to the agreement crafted with LoDoNA, LIV Denver will have to keep any amplified sound on its second-floor patio to a background level and ensure that all outdoor speakers and music be turned off at 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday nights and at 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The door facing 15th Street will have to be kept closed.

Those same negotiations resulted in Brand mandating that LIV Denver can only allow patron dancing during special events with advance notice for LoDoNA. And the venue will need to employ licensed security guards on weekends between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m.

"If he wants to buy the building, he wants to remain a fixture in lower downtown for quite some time," says Ku. "He wants to build good relationships. There’s nothing that would suggest to us and LoDoNA that because the previous owner acted one way, the new owner will act that way."

El Chapultepec, a jazz mecca for decades in Denver at 1962 Market Street, closed for good in 2020.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.