It's been a year since Neighborhood Flix, the ambitious movie theater/café in the Lowenstein project, pulled the plug -- but with any luck, the lights will soon be back on at 2510 East Colfax Avenue. That's because Frank Schultz, who runs Tavern Hospitality Group (owner of the Cowboy Lounge, the Soiled Dove and all those Taverns -- including LoDo, the one-year-old Wash Park, Uptown, Tech Center and Lowry), already has a contract with the bank doing the deal and a November 25 closing date on the property, which he plans to turn into an events center with a restaurant and patio.
But before that, Schultz has a November 23 liquor license hearing with the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses, where he'll request that the current license be extended to an all-ages cabaret license, which would allow for performances and private events. And before that, Schultz has a Capitol Hill neighborhood meeting on November 19, and a South City Park meeting on November 18. And then there's the November 9 date with neighbors in Congress Park, who've been posting signs protesting the project.
"I think the volume is the biggest thing for us," says Congress Park's John Van Sciver, spokesman for the group that has an opposition website, www.nodancecabaret.com, that points to the 790 capacity listed on the liquor license. But that was a rough, very early guestimate that's already been amended with the city, Schultz explains; the capacity of the center he'll create by combining the three Flix theaters will be around 450, with the rest of the space going to the restaurant and patio that have become Tavern hallmarks.
There's just no way to make the space work as a first-run movie theater, says Schultz. And he wasn't the only one to consider whether the Flix concept could be salvaged; several other groups, including the Denver Film Society, took a look at the space, then realized they couldn't make it work as a film center. So after brainstorming the possibilities, Schultz decided to go with the model that's worked so well at Lowry, where he books events at the Soiled Dove and also has a bar/restaurant.
It could take a year to finish the Lowenstein project and several more before it sees a profit, but Schultz thinks it will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood from the start. "People were against me at Lowry," he says, "but now they realize I'm an asset to the community."
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Paul Epstein, owner/founder of Twist & Shout, the landmark music store in the Lowenstein, can vouch for that, and he's eager to welcome Schultz. After all, he was Schultz's high-school English teacher many years ago -- and he's eager to work with his star pupil again. "He hasn't changed a bit," says Epstein, who could teach those Congress Park neighbors a thing or two about how the right business can really enhance an area.