Double Shooting at Onyx Ultra Lounge, Lease Allegedly Targeted for Violence

Denver7's Daryl Orr tweeted this photo from the scene of the early-morning shooting at Onyx Ultra Lounge.
Denver7's Daryl Orr tweeted this photo from the scene of the early-morning shooting at Onyx Ultra Lounge. @WxTrackerDaryl
At around 2 a.m. this morning, October 14, two people were shot outside Onyx Ultra Lounge, a hip-hop and dance club at 1080 14th Street. The injures aren't believed to be life-threatening.

The venue is located in a building near the Denver Center for the Performing Arts owned by the City of Denver. Last month, Denver City Council voted to end Onyx's lease two years early, supposedly because of violence associated with the business. However, a source from the scene, who spoke to Westword on condition of anonymity, questions that explanation. In his words, "They don't want a minority club."

Meanwhile, another nearby business, Backstage Coffee, at 1000 14th Street, has also lost its lease and is due to close on October 16. The owners of the shop contend that according to the city, their eviction had to do with paperwork issues.

The first official word of the shooting came via this message from Denver Police Department Twitter account, shared at around 3:40 a.m.: "DPD is on scene in the 1000 Blk of 14th St on a shooting. 2 parties transported for non-life threatening injuries. The investigation is still active and ongoing."

The aforementioned source says he was at the club when the incident happened. "There was a scuffle outside," he says. "I don't know if the guy got close and took off, but it was all outside. Nothing happened inside."

Denver police haven't offered a description of any suspects. But the source confirms that investigators are on the lookout for a white SUV in which the shooters may have fled. Regarding the wounds sustained by the victims, he notes that "they were grazed. This guy, I don't think he was a professional."

click to enlarge
The entrance to Onyx Ultra Lounge.
Google Maps
Local authorities have been accused in the past of unfairly targeting venues that spotlight hip-hop. Cold Crush in RiNo was declared a public nuisance and shut down in 2016 after a number of violent episodes in the vicinity, including the murder of rapper BossMan Goodie.

None of the crimes catalogued in a recent Denverite post about Onyx have been deadly, and there's dispute over whether they can all be pinned on the club. Authorities are said to have connected four gun-related incidents in the DCPA parking lot over a month's span and other nearby assaults and robberies to the club and its 2 a.m. let-out.

Violence was the rationale given to Denver City Council for ending Onyx's lease on December 31. The resolution was adopted on September 9 by a 12-1 vote, with only councilmember Candi CdeBaca dissenting.

Could the shooting speed up the process? "I don't know why they would do it any earlier because of that," the source says. "Maybe they would be inclined to help us more. I feel like they leave us out on an island."

As for Backstage Coffee, the owners posted the following on Facebook: "Our landlord, the City and County of Denver, is forcing Backstage Coffee out. It’s a decision we very much disagree with, but we never got our day in court. County Court Judge Barry Schwartz ruled in the city’s favor two days before our scheduled court date. They chose to evict us for failing to give them sales reports, something they had not asked for in the 3 years since they took over the day to day operation of the Denver Performing Arts Complex. The bottom line, is we believe Denver and its department Arts & Venues wanted us gone and they found any way they could to get it done. We will more than likely be replaced by a corporate food service group."

We've reached out to councilmember CdeBaca and Ginger White Brunetti, executive director of Arts & Venues, who testified about Onyx at the September 9 council hearing. If you have any information about today's shooting, you're encouraged to phone Metro Denver Crime Stoppers at 720-913-7867 (STOP).
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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