Jesse Morreale's fight with the city doesn't end at Rockbar -- the First Avenue Hotel is next

Categories: Cafe Society

el diablo at first avenue.jpg
El Diablo, still open...for now?
Jesse Morreale has decided he can't fight city hall on two fronts. And so after last call on Saturday, October 27, he'll close Rockbar, the hipster hangout he opened in the motel at 3015 East Colfax Avenue that he bought almost seven years ago; the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses declined to renew Rockbar's liquor license earlier this month.

The other front? The First Avenue hotel, the circa 1905 building at 101 Broadway that Morreale purchased over four years ago with help from the city. Now Morreale is facing an October 31 deadline from the city there.

See also:
- Rockbar will close this weekend after a goodbye bash
- City plans to extend deadline on First Avenue Hotel to October 31

- Slide show: 1:30 a.m. at Rockbar

Two years after Morreale opened Rockbar in a rundown motel at 3015 East Colfax Avenue that he renamed the All-Inn -- he planned to put a boutique hotel in the place, but the plunging economy took that idea down with it -- Morreale purchased the First Avenue Hotel. The dilapidated, circa 1905 building had been empty for years (the top floors far longer than that); eager to get development going along that stretch of Broadway, the city even kicked in with a loan from the Office of Economic Development. And after more than a year of work, Morreale opened two restaurants in the building, first Sketch and then El Diablo.

But he did so under temporary permits, and in July the city suddenly red-tagged the structure as unsafe, ordering that it be vacated immediately. And so the building and both restaurants were closed for three weeks, until a Board of Appeals ruling determined that Morreale could reopen the First Avenue until October 1, while he and the city worked to get on the same page.

The Denver Department of Community Planning and Development subsequently gave Morreale until October 31 to come up with an acceptable work plan for modifications that the city says are required. The problem? Morreale doesn't agree that any repairs need to be done. And discussion has been largely stalled for a month.

Asked this week for an update on the status of the First Avenue Hotel, Andrea Burns, spokesman for Community Planning, sent this:

We have given the property owner guidance on the need to make meaningful progress in resolving outstanding work plan items for 101 N. Broadway, per the Board of Appeals July 2012 ruling. At month's end the City will assess next steps based upon what -- if any -- progress has been made on building repairs. As of today, the property owner has not submitted anything new from the work plan for Development Services to review.

Keep reading for a response from Morreale.

Location Info

El Diablo - CLOSED

101 Broadway, Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

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Isn't it possible that there is a real problem with the building.  It's really old and has been in disrepair for decades.  Remember all those roofs that collapsed in those old building farther up Broadway several years back.  I don't know this to be the case but if it were the city has a right to be concerned.


Okay, Rockbar is one thing - it was a dive that we all loved but most people there were really, and I mean, really drunk. Another poster this week mentioned you were probably blacked out before you walked in the door; haha - good times.


Anyway - this is another case all together. I live in the Baker neighborhood and we need El Diablo. It is new, but already a well established staple of the community. El Diablo is unique, resides in a redeveloped historic building, locally owned, great food and drinks, and give back to the community. WHAT MORE COULD YOU ASK FOR???? If El Diablo is forced into long-term closure by the city, I am going to freak the ^&*$ out!!!


Punch Bowl is opening up and several other great places on this stretch of Broadway. Even the old Barker lounge didn't stay empty long... Just saying - Baker/Broadway Street is a dynamic and amazing place to live and play.  The city is missing a huge opportunity here and the bad press and community feelings that will naturally arise from this situation are unbelievable. Where is my city council person to fix this mess??????????? I swear to god, if they don't start making Denver a better place for small businesses then I'm running for city council in 2015.


Hey Tom Clark (Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce) - I read articles almost daily where you are quoted about the local business environment. How about you idiots at the chamber stop worrying about proposition 64 and other random politcal nonsense and start stepping out and doing something positive. Like helping out El Diablo and other local businesses in need of a friend.


Oh Lord, another 'Poor Jesse' article. Well done Westword. Well done. Does anybody truly feel bad for this guy (other than Nancy below?)


An entire decade of playing the victim, beginning with NIPP vs. Clear Channel.  His forced removal of partnership in Mezcal to follow, two failed attempts at establishing himself in Cherry Creek, the El Diablo employment "crisis" of July 2012, Rockbar and now back to the 101 Broadway...Anyone picking up a pattern here? Surely the common denominator couldnt be a factor.


If he wants sympathy (in addition to Midson, Calhoun and evidently Nancy Levine) from the general public and those who patronize his establishments in addition to his press, how about turning the arrow back on yourself. Admitting as humbly as is possible for Morreale that perhaps you didnt dot every 'I' and cross every 'T' and apologize to the "100s of employees" that you did not properly establish your business(es) before hiring them and allowing their general well-being to be built upon your house of cards.


And The Mayor... Seriously!?! I would be willing to bet that he is hoping this false empire falls quickly so that more than 1 floor of the building can, indeed, generate tax and taxable income when someone puchases the property and actually adheres to the boundaries of the law.


Even Narcissus would be begging Cafe Society to write about something else. We will see if the reincarnate and his people do the same.


Just out of curiosity, does Mayor Hancock have anything to say about this? I'd say it's shocking that the Mayor has not gotten involved, but actually it isn't. I can guarantee that if Hickenlooper were Mayor he would have sat down with the two parties and ironed something out by now. Not only to make sure that the employees of El Diablo and Sketch keep their jobs, but also to support the tax base that Morreale's establishments provide to the city. Any chance you can get a comment from the Mayor?


 @SxPxDxCx If that were the case then why would the City let them open the the restaurants in the first place?  Seems odd that everything was fine and open until this past July. 


 @BrandonInBaker Please do run in 2015.  I'm a Baker neighbor and I will vote for you.  We've got Judy Montero on the West side of Broadway, who when I called her office when the restaurants were closed was like where?? what?? Not an fing clue of what was going on (mind you she received hundreds, if not thousands of emails from El Diablo's online petition), and then proceeded to do nada.  


And then we've got Chris Nevitt on the East side of Broadway, who thought the best way to represent his constituents was to reply to those who reached out to him about the matter with an email doubling down on the City's position. Which would be totally fine, had he even attempted to hear both sides of the story first, but no, that might be too much work.  And from what I've heard, he still hasn't reached out to El Diablo. 


Both of these councilpeople might be interested to know that the majority of the staff at both of these restaurants and a significant percentage of the patrons live in their districts.  Idiots. 


 @guest  @SxPxDxCx Most cities issue conditional permits allowing the structure to be occupied when there is no imminent danger.  My guess is that this is the case and that the owner has not made any noticeable progress.  Personally I think ItsLikeRain has it right.  


The real travesty is that Morreale failed his employees by not planning to play by the rules.  

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