The truck stops here: Themediation session last Thursday
was supposed to calm tensions around the 5300 block of East Colfax Avenue, a stretch of asphalt that's only improved since Erich Roorda and Jill Warner opened Mod Livin' nine years ago. But that was before the Little Orange Rocket threw the fat in the fryer.
The gourmet food truck is an extension of Deluxe Burger, the retro joint that Roorda and Warner opened in February in partnership with Dylan Moore, a veteran restaurateur who has two spots on Broadway. Deluxe is tucked into the corner of the Mod Livin' building, right by the alley, and the Little Orange Truck uses the Deluxe kitchen as a commissary -- which means it sometimes blocks the alley while it loads and unloads.
Neighbors didn't appreciate that. But as it turns out, the alley is privately owed (it's one of 350 private alleys in the city), and the strip outside their building belongs to Roorda and Warner, who could fence it off if they wanted to. Instead, they've given neighbors -- who also have an entrance to the alley on 16th Avenue -- full access when it isn't being used by the Little Orange Rocket or for other deliveries.
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They tried explaining the legal situation to the neighbors -- but complaint calls about Mod Livin' and Deluxe started pouring into the city health department and the Denver Police Department. So many complaints, in fact, that the DPD, which had better things to do than respond to cranks, suggested mediation.
That session was held at the DPD District 2 substation last Thursday night, and it did not go well. Some neighbors threatened legal action, and Roorda's impassioned speech didn't seem to sway anyone. That night, someone fired shots at their home in Park Hill.
The next day, they suddenly learned that their customers would no longer be allowed to park in the lot of the little strip mall next door.
Another mediator experienced in neighborhood conflicts has stepped up, offering to give this another try. But Roorda and Warner are exhausted. As Roorda explains, "If these hard-core attacks persist, we will shut everything down and the business will go dark. We've fought enough battles and we're tired. Ironically, when a medical marijuana dispensary takes over the space, the neighborhood will be far the worse for it -- and the ones who are screaming the loudest will have a much worse situation on their hands."