RiNo business owners file complaints against Joe’s Liquors, citing public intoxication of homeless customers

Some community members believe there is a campaign afoot to drive out Joe’s Liquors now that RiNo is changing.
7 min. read
Joe’s Liquors on Larimer Street, June 20, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) five points; rino; larimer street; joe’s liquors; gentrification; complaints; kevinjbeaty; denverite; colorado; denver;

Joe's Liquors on Larimer Street, June 20, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Update: One business owner who had written the city to complain about Joe's Liquors called Denverite to say that he has since retracted his letter because he misremembered where another local business owner had told him they were confronted at gunpoint. The story below has been updated.

At least eight business owners in the River North area are requesting a liquor license hearing for Joe's Liquors, 2644 Larimer St., claiming that "the way the Joe's Liquors is operated has been a nuisance to the neighborhood for a number of years."

Most of the letters sent to Denver Licensing Director Ashley Kilroy follow the same format and share the same language:

I have observed customers, who were obviously intoxicated, be sold more alcohol on numerous occasions. In addition customers are allowed to drink in public directly in front of Joes Liquors or within a short distance.

Several of the complaints specifically reference homeless customers who line up early in the morning to get alcohol or who sleep outside the store.

Paul Cliff, owner of Samana Float Center, said in his letter that another business owner was "accosted twice in front of Joe's by intoxicated people who frequent Joe's. One of these was at gun point and the other was a physical altercation." He later retracted that letter after that business owner told him that's not where the incident occurred.

Tim Choi, whose parents own Joe's Liquors and who has been running the store since August, confirmed for Denverite that this is true.

Cliff said he's been getting angry phone calls since his letter was made public and wants to set the record straight because the issue is causing a lot of tension in the neighborhood.

"I stand behind the idea of Joe’s Liquors being able to work with the neighborhood, and I did not state that in my original letter," he said. "...We support our community to try to come up with an amicable resolution to a complicated issue."

You can read Cliff's retraction letter below.

In response to the complaints, a public hearing on Joe's Liquors request for renewal has been scheduled for June 30.

Choi said they're "trying to work with the city to make an amicable agreement."

"We haven't done anything wrong, and no one has ever approached us with these issues," he said.

Joe's has been in business there for 33 years and, as Choi points out, is located near several homeless shelters.

"They're pinpointing every issue happening in RiNo on us," he said.

In social media posts, some community members accused Kenneth Wolf of spearheading the letter-writing campaign so that he could get his own liquor license in the area. Wolf owns or acts as landlord for multiple businesses and commercial properties near Joe's Liquors, including Denver Central Market, Il Posto and Sushi-Rama.

In addition to owning Denver Central Market, which is home to High Point Creamery, Wolf owns the buildings that house almost all of the other businesses that filed complaints, according to Denver property records: 10 Barrel Brewing Co., Samana Float Center, LIV Studio and Visions West Contemporary.

The remaining complaint comes from Community First Commercial Real Estate, which has offices at 2301 Blake St. That building is owned by an LLC registered to Corporation Service Company, according to city and state records. The Community First owner who filed the complaint, Chris Riedl, is president of an HOA in the area.

In his own letter to the city, Wolf refers to and denies rumors that he wants to own a liquor store in the area at this time. He would be unable to get a retail liquor license nearby as long as Joe's is in business, due to a state proximity statute. Dan Rowland with the city's Excise and Licenses Department said he could not find any license applications associated with Wolf's name that have been denied.

We've reached out to Wolf and will update if and when we hear back.

Jamie Licko, executive director of the RiNo Art District, doesn't ask for a hearing on Joe's Liquors' license and walks a careful line in her own letter.

"It is our standard practice to work with all of our businesses, particularly those selling liquor, to enter Good Neighbor Agreements which ensure that they are following through with positive business practices and working together to ensure the best positive environment for our neighborhood," she wrote. "... We will actively work with you and with the owners of Joe's Liquors to support development of a Good Neighbor Agreement and will be active stewards in ensuring we are all doing our best to create a neighborhood that is safe and welcoming."

You can all of read the complaint letters below.

This post has been updated throughout.

Retraction from Paul Cliff:

Hello Director Kilroy,

I hope all is well.

I  sent you this email expressing my concern over Joes Liquor in the RiNo neighborhood.  It has come to my attention that some of my statements were incorrect and I would like to rectify my statement to be accurate.  I don’t want my intention or statements to be misleading. 

In my original statement I made the comment “Just within the last 2 months I know of a local business owner who was accosted twice in front of Joes by intoxicated people who frequent Joes.  One of these was at gun point and the other was a physical altercation.” 

I have recently talked again to this local business owner who this happened to and he corrected me.  These events were not in front of Joes Liquor store.  I would like to make it clear that there is no relationship with the perpetrators of these two instances and Joes Liquor.  This was a misunderstanding of the details to the story and I regret to have misrepresent what actually occurred.  In no way should Joes Liquor be associated with my prior statement about those individuals.

I would also like to say that the neighborhood has been changing dramatically and at a very fast pace.  I do believe there are some growing pains involved with this type of growth and some of the older business like Joes Liquor are working to change to this growth.  I do believe there is room for the older business to adjust to the changing demographics as well as take advantage of the evolution of the neighborhood.  I feel like there is an opportunity for Joes Liquor and the surround neighbors to come to an understanding for what is expected.  Joes Liquor has been around for 30 years and has seen many changes.  I would like to see Joes Liquor have the opportunity to work with the neighbors and come up with an amicable solution to some of the concerns that we’re facing.  Although some of these concerns are valid as a neighboring business,  I also believe that the Choi family has the right and are capable of making needed changes for a safe and healthy neighborhood.

Thank you and please let me know if you have any additional questions.

Paul Clift
Samana Float Center

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