Stoney Jessup, the owner of Stoney's Uptown Joint at 1035 East 17th Avenue, got so frustrated by a string of power outages at his bar that he started calling news stations to see if they could help. He says that there have been a dozen blackouts over the past few months, starting with an outage on March 31 that forced him to close up for a whole day in the middle of the Final Four, an event that had the bar packed full of college basketball fans.
"Xcel is calling it a brownout," he says. But after reporting each of the incidents, he felt like the situation was getting worse and that there were "no solutions."
It turns out things were in fact getting worse. Mark Stutz, a spokesman for Xcel, says that action (including technician visits to the sites) was taken on every reported outage in the affected area, bounded roughly by 17th Avenue and East Colfax on the north and south, and Clarkson and Downing on the west and east. And some of those outages were easily explainable and quickly fixed: One was chalked up to a car taking out a pole holding up power lines, and another was caused by a snowstorm. But by summer, the outages had become more regular and less explainable. Stutz notes that outages were recorded on July 24, 25 and 29, and on August 4, 5 and 7. Each time, crews were sent to patrol the lines and replace equipment that may have caused the problem. "Ninety-five percent of the time, we can determine the cause," he explains, "but this is one where we haven't been able to tell what's causing them."
The Odgen Theatre also experienced power outages, and Stutz says Xcel has had employees camped out there monitoring the situation.
Jessup says a lack of communication was a big part of his frustration, but Xcel is taking steps to address that. The company is having a community meeting at Stoney's at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 15, to explain the measures being taken to find a permanent fix and to answer questions from neighbors in the area.
In the meantime, the neighborhood has gone three days without an outage, which could mean the new equipment being installed is having a positive effect. Xcel is also reconfiguring some of the power lines in the area. Here's the official word from the company:
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Colorado will be performing additional work on its distribution system in the Swallow Hill neighborhood of Denver, as part of its efforts to improve electricity service reliability in the area. This work will require a short, planned outage starting at 4 a.m. MDT Saturday, Aug. 11 and will last for approximately 5-10 minutes. The planned outage will impact approximately 20 customers. General boundaries for the planned outage with be from 17th Street to Colfax Avenue (north to south), and Clarkson Street to Ogden Street (west to east).
This could put an end to the outages, but Jessup says he's had to throw out food and has lost revenue since he's had to turn away customers, sometimes just for an hour or two, but sometimes for the entire night, raising the question of whether Xcel is responsible for money lost.
"Our first priority is fixing the problem," Stutz says. "We'll take up the issue of compensation later."
Xcel does have a claims section on its website, so it's not out of the question that Jessup could be compensated for losses for at least some of the outages. At least he's no longer in the dark.