The Mercury Cafe’s new owners want to preserve its funky vibe

You probably didn’t even notice the change of ownership — and that’s the point.

Ashwin Datt and Julia Wigert (left) swing dance at the Mercury Cafe, Five Points, March 8, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Ashwin Datt and Julia Wigert (left) swing dance at the Mercury Cafe, Five Points, March 8, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Rebecca Speiss.

The Mercury Cafe is a community hub – a restaurant filled with swing dancers, musicians, revolutionaries and artists. Since moving to 2199 California Street in 1990, the space has brought up slam poets like Andrea Gibson, who eventually penned a beautiful letter of support for the venue during the pandemic.

For the first time since its founding 1975, the Mercury has new owners. On June 22, founder Marilyn Megenity signed the Mercury over to a group that includes Danny Newman, his wife Christy Kruzick, as well as business partner Austin Gayer and Denver developer Charles Woolley. They bought the property, which Megenity acquired for less than $160,000, for over $2 million.

Newman, an owner of My Brother’s Bar, has his own reputation as a collector and renovator of unusual developments.

Like many community spaces, the Mercury suffered during the pandemic. But customers and fans stepped up to help. According to the cafe’s website, over 1,800 people donated to the restaurant through a GoFundMe, while poets and musicians held benefits and a skeleton crew of staff kept the place clean and orderly during the pandemic.

But it wasn’t sustainable forever.

“Well, I’m 70 years old,” Magenity said. “I’ve been thinking that I need to put the Mercury in a good, safe place for a couple of years. The Mercury needs to not just rest on the shoulders of one old woman.”

She said she received several viable offers that she discussed with her community, then held a vote where everyone could fill out a secret ballot with their top three choices. She said 98 percent were for Newman and his crew.

Megenity was very pleased with the outcome, too. “I felt like they were the right people,” she explained. “When I first met them, they touched me very much.”

The Mercury has now entered a transition phase, where Megenity is still very much involved. The community activities, the staff and the building will all remain exactly the same, Newman said.

“We’re keeping everything as-is, definitely, for the foreseeable future,” he said. “Any kind of changes that we make will be slow and very thought-through.”

Megenity said she was glad she didn’t have to take offers from “people who didn’t care about the Mercury, who would have made me demolish it.”

“Our communities will remain intact and flourish,” she said. “The Mercury Cafe is miraculously lucky.”

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