The devil you say! City slaps El Diablo and Sketch with notice to vacate

Categories: The Dish

jessephoto.JPG
Danger. That's the sign on the door of Sketch, which is supposed to host an opening for a showing of 9News reporter Kirk Montgomery's photographs tonight. The sign -- as well as five different letters signed by Michael Roach, Building Official with Development Services in the Denver Department of Community Planning and Development, is posted not just on the door to Sketch, but all around the First Avenue Hotel, the building that also houses El Diablo and the offices of Jesse Morreale, who redeveloped the 106-year-old structure -- with the help of two loans from the Denver Office of Economic Development.

Which would make you think that the city would keep a close eye on the development of the project, where El Diablo opened its doors in August of 2010, followed soon after by Sketch and other businesses. But now, according to one of the letters dated July 10 and posted sometime before 8 a.m. this morning, "Continued occupancy of this structure poses an immediate hazard to the life safety of occupants and the public. Per 2011 Denver Building Code (CBC) Sections 104 and 105, the referenced site is ordered immediately vacated. Failure to immediately vacate shall result in further City action."

A few hours ago, I was sitting in Morreale's office on the second floor, which didn't seem to pose any immediate hazard to me...except that Morreale was about to blow his top. According to a spokeswoman for Community Planning, Morreale had been doing work without permits and not following through on an agreed-upon work plan. But Morreale insists he's worked closely with the city from the start. "The city saying they've been trying to get in touch with me for two weeks is a lie," he says.

first-avenue-hotel.jpeg
The First Avenue Hotel in its original incarnation.
Actually, one of Morreale's attorneys had been in communication with the Denver City Attorney's Office last Friday -- on a tangentially related matter. Phil Gordon had called Mike Roach on June 22 to request a meeting because Roach had submitted a declaration in a lawsuit "which appeared intended to provide substantial assistance to plaintiffs in advancing their position against my clients," Gordon e-mailed Assistant City Attorney Kerry Buckey. That litigation involves a case filed against Morreale Hotels by the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, which claims El Diablo is not compliant with accessibliity requirements...although Roach "and his design review team had reviewed and approved the design for El Diablo restaurant as being in full compliance with applicable law, including all applicable accessibility requirements," Gordon wrote after Buckey returned his call to Roach.

On July 6, Buckey sent Gordon this: "I'm sorry it has taken so long to get back with you on a meeting about the situation at 101N Broadway. The Building Official (Mike Roach) and the Director of Development Services (Kelly Leid) and I would like to meet with you and your client on Monday at 3:00 here in the Webb Building. Please let me know if that works for you, or suggest an alternate time." Later that afternoon, Buckey sent a second e-mail, asking to push the meeting to Monday morning. Although he noted that the primary purpose was "the status of the building," he also said that the reason for the time switch was "Mr. Roach's schedule."

But the switch didn't work for Morreale and Gordon, and they had not rescheduled by this morning -- when Morreale found notices from the city all over his building. According to Andrea Burns, spokeswoman for Community Planning, yesterday's "meeting was meant to be an opportunity for the city to notify Mr. Morreale that the enforcement action was to take place. Any conversation in the meeting would not have affected that outcome."

But Gordon says that if he'd had any idea what was about to come down, he would have pushed for a meeting -- and made sure the right people were there. As he points out, "I'm not a real-estate lawyer."

el-diablo-exterior.jpeg
The renovated exterior of El Diablo, 101 Broadway.
Morreale has those, too, and he's been on the phone with them all day, trying to figure out his options. And in the meantime, despite the order to vacate, El Diablo is definitely open for business....and plans for Montgomery's reception are still on.

Danger!

See documents on the next page.

Location Info

Venue

Map

El Diablo - CLOSED

101 Broadway, Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

Boyz Town Denver

117 Broadway, Denver, CO

Category: Music

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26 comments
Some guy
Some guy

Thanks Lori.  I thought Sean was a biz partner with Jesse at the time of El Diablo's opening but I haven't heard his name associated with any of this lately.  Perhaps it's a blessing for him, but I don't know the whole story here. Off topic I must say, my wife and I miss some of Yontz' previous restaurants; like Tambien, and most notably Chama.

Lori Midson
Lori Midson

Sean is cooking at Rockbar, as is Brian Laird, the chef of Sketch. 

Some guy
Some guy

Does anyone know if Sean Yontz is still involved with either of these restaurants, as a Chef and/or biz partner with Jesse?  I used to work with Sean eons ago and just was curious.

Mouse in da house
Mouse in da house

These guys may run a fine establishment for all I know, but then again, I wouldn't know: I use a wheelchair, and the place STILL ain't accessible. This, despite a federal court order in March to make it so. So to whichever commenter wrote "Karma's a bitch," I second that emotion.

Guest
Guest

 Jesse's business tactics have never changed.

sporobolus
sporobolus

if you read the documents, you see that the city essentially agreed to let him open at a certain time on the condition he do additional work in the future; the city is saying that not only did that additional work not happen, but that he also did more work without permits and he occupied upper floors when the city hadn't authorized that so the city's basis for a violation is clear, though i agree it's not as clear why the building had to be immediately closed; so let's imagine how it might work; the city finds that he hasn't  completed the work plan, so they inspect and find several additional issues; this would compound his problems; hypothetically, if a restaurant were found to have built a new kitchen without permits or inspection (as someone else suggested), i think the city would have to assume there's a potential hazard (a new one); any time an un-permitted kitchen is found, a restaurant is in serious trouble; i would rather have the place closed than have a fire while the place is full

food poisoning
food poisoning

 Alluded, not eluded.  He may have eluded attempts at payment recovery, but he would have had to allude to his position - or lack thereof - in the organization..

Acneth
Acneth

 "please lets not forget the fact that his redevelopment is what gave momentum to this area's rebirth" Hardly. The South Broadway area was hot long before El Diablo opened up. If you want to give someone credit, how about the owner of Sputnik/Hi-Dive? How about Scott at Skylark? The Hornet? Hell, The Crypt? Or, you know, the dozens of business owners who labored at their bookstores/recycled clothing shops/design stores for more than a decade before Morreale deigned to come down? What else should we give him credit for? The Broncos' 98 Super Bowl win? Pikes Peak?

sporobolus
sporobolus

indeed, and many of those other business owners have been much more engaged with the surrounding community, whereas Morreale has talked smoothly but really not come through; i also think the decades that residents spent improving the surrounding neighborhoods have a lot to do with Broadway's commercial success

Diana
Diana

I find it it ludicrous that the city would put up Danger signs on the entire building, as the issue at hand is not the building being unsafe, it is about one litigious guy in a wheelchair, who happens to be an Attorney and who happens to be heavily involved with the CCDC.... oh yes and who also happens (unfortunately for El Diablo) to also have offices right across the street from the restaurant, who has made it his life's mission to be an enormous pain in a** to any and all businesses and other establishments in his path, regardless of them being ADA compliant. That's just not good enough for him, as evidenced by the many settlements paid out by the likes of Kmart, King Soopers, Taco Bell, etc, etc.... maybe the CCDC thinks the peskier and more obnoxious they are, the more likely they are to succeed. Because organizations like the CCDC do not care for much outside their own agenda. And for his contributions,  Tim Fox (alongside partner Amy Robertson) are CCDC's People of the Month! Imagine that..... He could be coming for you next. Point is... there are now nearly 140 people out of work, and there is nothing funny about that. Jesse has always had heart, vision, and good intentions... so please lets not forget the fact that his redevelopment is what gave momentum to this area's rebirth, that it's his creativity that continues to bring people in... it's so easy to criticize, but there is always more to the story.

sporobolus
sporobolus

Diana how do you conclude that this is about an accessibility lawsuit? the documents above were not loading for me earlier, but now that i've read them it's clear that there have been multiple ongoing issues with this building completely apart from the lawsuit the documents describe him willingly taking actions that he should have known risked penalties from the city; that said, i question the immediate closure — one can infer that the building has been a hazard from the start and yet the city allowed it to be occupied as long as improvements were to be made; if that's the case, the hazards must not have been that severe (or if they were, the building shouldn't have been occupied in the first place) i'm sure the building is a challenge — it had been in disrepair and Morreale has never succeeded in fully renovating and occupying it; if he could finish that job, then he would really deserve credit for boosting Broadway

Guest
Guest

It is sad that our city government, led by Michael Hancock, would continue to put red tape and anti-business regulations around businesses in our city. 

Soulflowerdj2002
Soulflowerdj2002

they acted as cake decorators when reconstructing this spot, you cant polish a turd.  And to cut corners on saftey issues is unethical.  god forbid the old big lots space is done in the same manner!  Honestly i feel his hands are in too many cookie jars already and lord knows how much money is being lended for the howard hughes mad man visions he has. One should focus on doing a few good things right, and spend less time making half ass efforts on everything else.

sporobolus
sporobolus

there's an error in the article; Sketch opened in 2009, before El Diablo 

Dan5280
Dan5280

Thank you for being so informative, Jason.

Karen the Kommenter
Karen the Kommenter

Rockbar should be shut down by the health department for herpes and roaches

guest
guest

Bob, I don't know what you are doing att Rockbar to get herpes but I can guarantee that i isn't coming from the food or drink. What are you doing in the bathroom, there? Entertaining a "business" woman?

Bob on Broadway
Bob on Broadway

Jesse has been in the headlines so much lately, he should be on celebrity rehab. Pretty sure he consumes more than the Mexican COKE at his Devil restaurant. Speaking of evil demons, I thought I was posessed last time I ate at The Devil. About shit out corn from the tortillas. While I'm on the spicy note, Jesse is going to have to worry about a big cool down when his illegals from the kitchen stand outside with a 'shame on you' sign, then ICE shows up at his kitchen doorstep. Jesus will really be taking one for the team, to take out the kitchen trash, if you get my flow. Jesse should step out the door and watch his empire fall. It's already tumbling from a business perspective, but I mean he could literally watch the building colapse from all the shady construction he's doing. It's a shame how he treated Boy Hollow and El Brian, that bathroom attendant guy. El Brian was perfect for El Diablo, but now its a thing of the past.

Theonegordo
Theonegordo

You have to get all your inspections done before the city will let you open, their is no way they would let a high profile restaurant like that open without passing all the proper codes.  It seems as though the disability coaliation has more to do with this then people realize, those groups have a ton of power, I remember dealing with them back at the opera house because our mezzaine didn't have ramps but 95 percent of the restaurant was accessible.  These groups have politicians by the sack since no one wants to stand up to them for the perception that they don't care.

strange doings
strange doings

 This was my question as well.   If he did rebuilds on the building, then didn't the city have to sign off on those before these restaurants opened?  And even if work was done (possibly illegally) after those inspections, could it be that substantial so as to relegate this building to inhabitable status? items as mentioned above - fire suppression and asbestos - seem like items that would have to be done before the places even opened originally. None of this is making particular sense.

Rob Payne
Rob Payne

I'm confused. Why are they now being red tagged? If the work was performed and inspected in 2010, why are they being held liable for 2011 code? Am I just missing something from the article? Did they never have the inspections? Nonetheless it should be based off 2010 current code and not 2011 code. Sounds like somebody made somebody in the building department angry.

Creeper
Creeper

My guess would be Jesse. Karma is a bitch!!

Uncledave8
Uncledave8

Balls. I was born at night but it wasn't last night.  If you don't think that there are revenue motives behind all of these "you must get a permit", "get inspected", "grease the hand of some city bureaucrat" agencies you are living in a cave.  I've known too many of their employees over the years and even they agree that a huge percentage of city employees do nothing other than paper shuffling designed to separate tax payers from their money. Walk into City Hall - behind every door is some "agency" designed to collect a fee.

Dan5280
Dan5280

Jim, Uncle Dave, this is not politics at all. I'm too familiar with this process to let your comments go without response.   When you work without a permit, you are taking a risk.  The city is unbending in this, and Jesse is too smart not to know it.  It happens all the time, but people like to cut corners and take their chances. In this case, he's a high profile guy with a high profile location, and there is no doubt a lot of work needs to be done to that building (fire suppression in the restaurant, and I bet there is asbestos upstairs).  I don't know Mr. Morreale personally, but I understand that he's what you might call strong-willed (always right perhaps?).  Anyway, he gambled and got bitten.   I hope he can clear this up quickly as there is no doubt this is a great business.  I've posted about El Diablo before and won't hide the fact that aside from the posole and his salsas I don't love his food.  But the place just kills it with atmosphere, drinks and great service.  Hopefully he can get it fixed fast.

Uncledave8
Uncledave8

And the bureaucrats wonder why citizen taxpayers resent paying to support publicly funded agencies whose sole purpose is to harass individuals and small businesses.  I would like to suggest that Mayor Hannock look into the myriad of such agencies in Denver to determine whether continuing to support them makes sense in view of current budgetary limitations.  Spend the money on critical city services not the bureaucrats.

Jim Rome
Jim Rome

Thank God the Democrats are looking out for our safety.  Hope the city bans large cola's soon.  

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