Cafe Society

Alley oops! Little Orange Rocket dispute takes off on Channel 7

Channel 7 recently stopped by the 5300 block of East Colfax Avenue, to talk to Jill Warner and Erick Roorda, the owners of Mod Livin', about the neighborhood dispute that's gone "ballistic," as Roorda says, since they opened Deluxe Burger with restaurateur Dylan Moore, then launched the Little Orange Rocket this summer. That food truck uses the Deluxe Burger kitchen as its commissary, and frequently blocks the alley outside the building -- which happens to belong to Mod Livin'.

The KMGH report, which you can watch here, may be the last story on this dispute for a while; the business owners and neighbors are going to attempt another round of mediation and have been asked to stay silent during that process.

In the meantime, though, here are the notes from the October 21 mediation session that was attended by Roorda, Warner, a dozen neighbors and many city officials -- and that did not go particularly well:


Since the summer months, multiple calls were placed into District Two Police Station complaining about the blocking of the north/south alley located between 16th and Colfax and Glencoe and Grape. Residents' calls expressed frustration that Deluxe Burgers' truck was blocking access to this alley off Colfax.

However, the alley is private property and neither the police department nor the City and County of Denver have jurisdiction. This means it is a civil matter that needs to be solved by the neighbors. Community Mediation Concepts was asked to facilitate the October 21, 2010 community meeting with the purpose of focusing the discussion on the following two items:

• Provide both the neighbors and the alley owners with a better understanding of specific issues and concerns around the alley, which affect the neighborhood.

• Work towards identifying possible next steps for all involved.

The meeting lasted approximately two hours allowing all present to be heard and understood. Erick, one of the owners of Deluxe Burgers, was given the opportunity to address and share with the audience the frustration they have experienced as owners and the efforts they have made to "clean up" this portion of E. Colfax by stopping prostitution and vagrant activity. His message was well received and those present expressed the importance to work towards a resolution that might benefit all.

Information Shared:

During the meeting the following items were raised and discussed. Including:

High Interest and Desire to Establish a Public Alley: Several neighbors shared the following reasons why they view the need for a public alley.

• Access to garages for the multi-dwelling units is mainly via the alley.

• The City and County of Denver collects trash using the alley. If the alley is closed, neighbors would need to place their trash in the front street (Grape or Glencoe). This could affect home values and increase inconvenience.

• This past summer 16th Street was blocked due to water main break. If the alley was closed, it would have been very difficult due to re-routing. By having alley access, neighbors were able to get in and out via Colfax.

Easement: Neighbors discussed their option to consider legal advice on how to make the alley a public easement. They suggested using the concept of adverse possession to ensure the alley remains open. Neighbors expressed how it has become a defacto alley since the property lines were never formally defined when the neighborhood was established in the early 1900.

A couple of issues the neighbors learned they must take into account:

• The City and County of Denver has no decision-making authority since the property in question is private.

• To establish an easement outside the concept of adverse possession, all property owners must be in agreement to establish the easement on their property.

• A private surveyor will need to be hired in order to formally identify the current property lines.

Potential of Adding a Patio for Deluxe Burgers: Several present expressed their concern that the owners of Deluxe Burgers will be building a dining patio on the private property (owned by Deluxe Burgers'), which is now part of the alleyway. Such a patio would permanently close off the alley. The owners did not deny the fact that this is a possibility; but clearly expressed that they do not have any such plans at this time. At this point their focus is the livelihood of the business.

Better luck next time.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun