DENVER — Several downtown Denver business owners say that if the "inescapable problem" of homelessness doesn't improve soon, they won't have much of a choice but to close their doors for good.
Owners of The Triangle Bar, British Bulldog, and Cheese Meat Board all spoke to Denver7 Wednesday, reporting a decline sales due to encampments near Broadway and 20th St.
“This corner smells like fetid urine in the morning,” said Scott Coors, owner of the decades-old Triangle Bar, one of the first establishments for LGBTQ+ Denverites. “It’s fairly off-putting. Would you like to park here and walk through that? I wouldn’t. To be honest, I wouldn’t.”
Businesses along that block are feeling under siege as homeless encampments now surround them on three sides.
“It’s a little unnerving, because you don’t know what mental state they’re in,” Coors said. “They’re probably not dangerous, but you don’t know.”
Coors then argued that the continued existence of the bar and restaurant is now in jeopardy.
“If the city doesn’t do something, we’re not going to survive this,” Coors said. “And I’m a fifth generation Coloradan. I love this city. I love this state. But if we can’t get our sales turned around, we’re not going to have much of a choice.”
The same is true just around the corner at British Bulldog.
“We’re actively losing money operating this place,” said owner Mark Berzins. “What we do is kind of that old neighborhood bar thing. That’s our shtick. And this is our oldest bar. It opened in 1904.”
Berzins owns several bars in metro Denver and while sales are strong at his other establishments, he’s never seen things as bad as they are right now at British Bulldog.
Sales for both British Bulldog and Triangle Bar are down 40% since Firestone Tires closed three months ago, business owners for both establishments told Denver7.
“Within a week of Firestone closing, the fences were cut and there was trash, mattresses,” Coors said. “Sadly – a lot of unpleasant things going on. A lot of drug use, and frankly – that scares us.”
Berzins told the problem is even tougher on his staff.
“Not only has our staff seen their tip bucket decline by 35% - which is their take home pay, but their safety is a real concern," Berzins said, adding that trying to hire new staff is an even bigger issue for him at the moment. “Many of them don't show and when we do follow-up with them – they say, ‘I drove there, and I don’t feel that’s a place I feel comfortable working.'"
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Denver7 witnessed the problem firsthand while at Cheese Meat Board, a charcuterie shop between Triangle and British Bulldog.
“What can we do for you?” said owner Melanie Flint as a gentleman walked through the door.
“I’m just looking for samples,” the man said.
“We have sandwiches,” Flint said. “We don’t have samples.”
The man then grabbed a waffle cookie off the counter, arguing that what was on the counter were samples.
“No, those cost money,” a staff member responded.
“This costs money?” the man asked. “$0.25 cents. Get out of my way.”
He threw open the front door and stomped out.
“That is it,” Flint said. “Fortunately, we don’t see that non-stop, but we see it enough that it’s a little discouraging.”
Denver7 contacted Mayor Mike Johnston’s office on behalf of these businesses and did not hear back by deadline.
For now, business owners at 20th and Broadway are fighting to stay alive.
“I’m a firm believer that every person does deserve a house,” Flint said. “But we’re also in dire need of more immediate action.”
“You don’t want to be heartless, but we just can’t sustain these kinds of losses forever,” he said.
Coors, on the other hand, told Denver7 he expects mayor to deliver on his promises soon.
“I won’t get into politics here, but (the mayor) did run on a platform of addressing homelessness in the city,” Coors said. “We would really like to see someone in a position of authority to do something.”
A month into his administration, Denver Mayor Mike Johnston earlier Wednesday announced his team is requesting proposals from community partners and nonprofit organizations to aid in his plan to house 1,000 people by the end of the year.