Cafe Society

Blackberries tenant still owes the city mucho money

A new coffee shop going into 710 East 26th Avenue, in the heart of Five Points, hopes to fill the void left by the recent departure of Blackberries, but the former tenant left a pile of debt that the city of Denver is still trying to recover.

Much of a $260,000 loan from the city to Blackberries' operators remains outstanding, and the city could be on the hook for more than $200,000 of it -- although Denver eco-devo officials aren't saying exactly how much.

The business was responsible for making monthly payments of $700 from July 1, 2006, through December 1, 2010 according to Office of Economic Development spokesman Derek Woodbury, with one balloon payment in January 2011 for the balance of the loan.

Some quick math indicates that somewhere in excess of $200,000 is still unpaid on the loan. Woodbury says the city is in the process of seizing the assets and property it's entitled. "We're active with this right now," he notes. "Our office is currently pursuing loan recovery as per the loan agreement."

According to Woodbury, the funds were distributed through the federally funded Neighborhood Business Revitalization Loan program, which has assisted a number of other local businesses, including the expansion of Tony's Market and Cook's Fresh Market into downtown.

"These programs work as 'gap' financing, in which the OED investment leverages additional investment which may include loans from commercial lenders, as well as private equity," Woodbury explains.

The Blackberries store was originally opened by Hasena Williams and later taken over by Sudan Muhammad, who was evicted from the premises earlier this year.

Hope Communities, the current landlord, is currently working with Ryan Cobbins, the new tenant and owner of Coffee at the Point, on his project. Cobbins says he had originally intended to take over the city loan, but he went back to the drawing board after the equipment and furniture were seized as part of the OED's loan recovery.

"We're eager to have another tenant operate something in the neighborhood," says Hope executive director Larry Fullerton. Coffee at the Point is slated to open in the location in September.

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Jessica Chapman
Contact: Jessica Chapman