Denver Government

Neighbors Say Number Thirty Eight Already Violating Noise Rules

The fight over noise from Number Thirty Eight continues.
The fight over noise from Number Thirty Eight continues. Jon Solomon
On May 5, the City of Denver's top licensing official ruled that Number Thirty Eight could keep its cabaret license, albeit with noise restrictions. But neighbors of the RiNo music venue have filed a claim with the city, saying that Number Thirty Eight has already started violating those restrictions.

"Less than three days later, Sunday, May 8, Licensees played pre-recorded music, amplified through indoor and outdoor speakers on the licensed premises, while the garage doors were open. The blaring music disturbed the neighbors as it has done for the last twenty months," Tom Downey, an attorney representing those neighbors, wrote in a May 11 letter to Molly Duplechian, the executive director of the Department of Excise and Licenses. Downey, who served in Duplechian's role in the past, and his clients want to see Duplechian immediately suspend Number Thirty Eight's cabaret license, which allows the venue to offer live musical performances and let patrons dance.

Duplechian had ruled that Number Thirty Eight could keep its cabaret license, but could only host live amplified performances and acts with drums indoors, when the venue's windows and doors are shut. Duplechian also ordered Number Thirty Eight to complete a cement wall to help with noise mitigation before hosting any outdoor music shows. Once that wall is complete, the outdoor shows can only be acoustic and cannot feature amplified music or music with drums.

Duplechian's ruling may have saved the 31,000-square-foot club, which opened in October 2020 and quickly won Best New Venue honors in Westword's Best of Denver 2021. Without the cabaret license, Number Thirty Eight would have turned into a large food and drink hall, without the live music entertainment element.

Duplechian's ruling overrode a recommended decision by administrative hearing officer Macon Cowles, who told the Department of Excise and Licenses that it should not renew the cabaret license of Number Thirty Eight because of excessive and unbearable noise coming from the venue that had led to the complaints from neighbors. The noise was so bad that it even surpassed the legal limit, according to measurements by the City of Denver's sound expert.

The neighbors who had originally complained and expected Number Thirty Eight to lose its cabaret license were upset over the reversal...and the venue's renewed noise level.

"Today, May 11th, Licensees again played pre-recorded music, amplified through indoor and outdoor speakers on the licensed premises, while the garage doors were open," Downey wrote, attaching a video as evidence. "Again, the blaring music disturbed the neighbors, and the cement wall has not been completed."

Downey followed up on May 12, sending another email to Duplechian. "I’m sorry to bother you and everyone again, but please accept this email and the attached video as an additional complaint against No. 38 for violating the conditions of their Dance Cabaret License," he wrote. "Earlier this evening, they had an amplified live performance with drums inside, the garage door open, and amplified it outside. It again disturbed the neighbors, who respectfully request the license be summarily suspended."

Through spokesperson Stefanie Jones, Number Thirty Eight owners Spencer Fronk and Andrew Palmquist offer this statement: “We appreciate the Director of Excise and License’s ruling to renew our cabaret license, allowing us to continue to serve our guests as we’ve done for almost two years. We are in communication with the Department of Excise and Licenses to make sure we continue to comply with the rules of our license as directed by the ruling.”

The Department of Excise and Licenses is investigating the allegations made by Downey, according to department spokesperson Eric Escudero.

"The Department of Excise and Licenses is treating it as a complaint," he says. "If violations are found, the licensee could be subject to disciplinary action."
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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.