City kicks Backstage Coffee out of the Denver Performing Arts Complex

Owners owed $73,000 and violated lease terms but they say the city’s long-term vision never included the “bohemian” spot.

Jan Mangles, co-owner of Backstage Coffee, embraces Eric Israelson, chorus manager for the Colorado Symphony, as he comes in to say goodbye, Oct. 15, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Jan Mangles, co-owner of Backstage Coffee, embraces Eric Israelson, chorus manager for the Colorado Symphony, as he comes in to say goodbye, Oct. 15, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Kevin J. Beaty
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For 13 years Backstage Coffee has been the place where Denver’s theater-goers and performers got their afternoon caffeine fixes and post-show cocktails, but on Wednesday the shop will close its doors for good after a court-ordered eviction from its landlord, the City and County of Denver.

The city ordered the coffee shop to leave its location at 14th and Curtis streets in February after owners failed to file monthly sales reports, a requirement of the lease. According to officials at Denver Arts & Venues, which runs the performing arts complex for the city, it was unpaid rent — $73,391 worth, including late fees — that prompted Denver to pursue legal proceedings.

The owners at Backstage chose not to vacate and the official ruling for eviction was delivered on Sept. 17 by a Denver County judge.

While the owners of Backstage Coffee acknowledged that they were behind on rent and that they had missed filing some of their sales reports, they believe Arts & Venues wanted them out of the complex.

Backstage Coffee at the Denver Center for Performing Arts, Oct. 15, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Backstage Coffee at the Denver Center for Performing Arts, Oct. 15, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Kevin J. Beaty

“The people in charge don’t like us. They don’t like our bohemian feel,” said Jan Mangles, who owns Backstage along with her husband Matt Haddadi. “Bottom line: they wanted us gone, they found a way and they got it done. It’s sad.”

The owners at Backstage aren’t the only ones feeling pushed out of the arts complex. In September, the Denver City Council voted to amend the lease for Onyx, a hip-hop club renting space from the city, after a series of crimes in the arts center’s parking garage and the streets near the club. Onyx has to leave by Dec. 31.

Testifying before City Council before the vote, Arts & Venues Executive Director Ginger White said that Onyx was “incongruent with public safety and also the mission of the arts complex.”

While most of City Council sided with White, Onyx’s manager told Denverite that he didn’t believe the club should be held responsible for the crimes, which were never officially linked to the club by police. Two of the club’s security guards were shot early Monday morning in a drive-by.

Neither Backstage or Onyx are included in the city’s Next Stage Vision Plan, a redevelopment guide for the arts center released in 2016.

Mangles believes that their ouster might be related to this plan. But Brian Kitts, a spokesman for Arts & Venues, says the idea that either tenant is being pushed out to make way for something else is “flat out false.” The city has not found new tenants for either location, he said.

“We wouldn’t be having this discussion at all if they weren’t so far back in their rent,” Kitts said of Backstage. “It would have been several more years before we could contemplate what can happen there.”

Mangles said that Backstage had fallen behind on rent before but had always made it up. They tried to do so this time with a GoFundMe set up in July, but only managed to bring in $2,278 of their $25,000 goal.

With the eviction finalized, Backstage will take its final bow Wednesday with a public clean-out-the-fridge party. Many long-time customers are already trickling in to say their goodbyes Tuesday.

“I’m just heartbroken,” said Eric Israelson, the chorus manager for the Colorado Symphony. “This place is perfect.”

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