April 15, 2024

The 1995 Gary Fleder film “Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead,” featured five criminals trying to survive a screwed-up caper. Now, in the updated version, Things To Do In Denver When You’re Homeless, we see a legion of malefactors flouting the law and getting away with it. In the latest update, some “housing-challenged” person has set up a speakeasy on the sidewalk, complete with tents and couches of ill repute.

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It’s Shangri-La for the down and out.

A decked-out, open-air tavern for the homeless that also rents out tents for prostitution has popped up in downtown Denver, according to police.

The pop-up speakeasy — which features lounge chairs, umbrellas and Astroturf — has taken over the sidewalk at 23rd and Champa streets, which the city’s growing homeless population has turned into an encampment. 

“We’re hearing there was an open bar, sales of alcohol, things like that,” Denver Police Patrol Division Chief Aaron Sanchez told CBS Colorado while surveying the tent city saloon Monday. “We have officers looking into that.”

City officials have received “numerous complaints” about the encampment blocking the sidewalk, forcing pedestrians to walk in the street to pass the block. 

One of the tents appeared to have been transformed into a speakeasy, complete with numerous couches, rugs and tables.

But the booze, that’s not the most egregious bit. The encampment is even trying a newer, nastier, dirtier take on a great old Japanese tradition known as the “love hotel”:

There have been complaints that the couches at the streetside bar and surrounding tents are being rented out for prostitution, Sanchez said.

Meghan Shay, an executive at homeless aid group Step Denver, told CBS she noticed the apparent bar herself during one of her morning drives to work.

She said an encampment serving liquor to the unhoused would only exacerbate the city’s homeless problem, citing a report claiming over 80% of the homeless have experienced lifetime alcohol and/or drug problems.

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On that last comment by Ms. Shay, regarding the liquor exacerbating the city’s homeless problem, I can only say, “No s***, Sherlock.”

This is going on because the city of Denver, a liberal bastion even back when Colorado was still a red-to-purple state, tolerates it. That’s all there is to it. 

We lived in Colorado for 30 years, and still have family members in the Denver metro area. We loved Colorado, and still do; I moved to the Denver area when I came off active duty in the Army in 1989, and not only was Colorado still essentially South Wyoming instead of East California, but Denver itself was still a pretty clean, safe place. In the 1990s the rot started when the city began to have a gang problem; it’s just gone downhill since. Now, it’s going the way of San Francisco and Los Angeles, and that’s just sad.

One has to ask: What has changed in Colorado in that time?

It’s common for city leaders, when confronted with this kind of thing, to beat their chests and shout about the need for “new solutions” to old problems. But there’s one obvious solution that Denver’s powers-that-be might try: Enforcing the laws already on the books. I’m pretty sure selling booze on the sidewalk in an unlicensed, tent-side speakeasy carries a legal penalty. Ditto for facilitating prostitution. For that matter, camping on the public walkways is proscribed.

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But these laws are clearly not being enforced. Oh, they have “…officers looking into that,” and a year from now, they’ll still have officers looking into this — or another situation on another sidewalk just like it.

It’s sad to see a place, a community, you were once fond of descending into chaos like this. But until voters start making some changes in metropolitan leadership, instead of continually voting the same old lunatics back in charge of the asylums, nothing is going to change, except when they get worse.

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