Mary Jane's Pizza is beginning to seem a little more like Little Orphan Annie. The late-night pizza joint was already forced out of its original home at 2013 West 32nd Avenue by redevelopment (Dickinson Plaza, where it had been located since 2009, is currently just a hole in the ground) and is now in danger of losing its new home at the Denver Wrangler at 3090 Downing Street.
Greg Kennedy, co-owner of Mary Jane's, says that the Wrangler is attempting to force the pizza place, which shares a kitchen but has its own separate entrance, out of the building over problems with the sublease. As Kennedy explains it, the Wrangler's current liquor license does not allow it to sublease, even though that sublease was agreed to by both parties before the Wrangler opened there in August, after moving from its old home in Uptown.
"We were told they couldn't lease to us anymore because they have a hotel/restaurant license, not a tavern license," Kennedy says. According to Denver liquor-license requirements, a hotel/restaurant license must have a kitchen with food sales making up at least 25 percent of gross income. In order to make this work, Mary Jane's — which officially fired up the ovens last month — has been selling food as "the Wrangler Pizza" and all of its employees are actually being paid as Wrangler employees, including Kennedy and his partner, David Llanos.
Kennedy says that the Wrangler has been keeping all of the proceeds from food sales and that he currently has no access to the funds to help secure a new location. "We trusted them, because they gave us no reason not to," he says, adding that he and Llanos waited patiently for the Wrangler to open two months later than expected even though it meant a loss of income from lack of food sales.
For now, he plans to keep selling pizza as long as he can. "They told our employees to go home last night," he notes. But he thinks the sublease is still a legally binding document that gives Mary Jane's certain tenant rights, including no eviction without notice.
Ultimately, though, Kennedy thinks the situation may not be salvageable and that he and Llanos will soon be looking for a third home for Mary Jane's.
The loss of Mary Jane's, known for serving pizza until 4:20 a.m. on weekends, means one less late-night option for Denver's night owls. Here's hoping this two-time orphan soon finds a "forever" home.
The Wrangler's management has not yet returned our call inquiring about the status of Mary Jane's.
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