Platt Park event space wants a liquor license but neighbors are pushing back

Last Wednesday, local attorney Doug Norberg walked along the 1900 block of South Broadway, where he and his business partner own half of the east side of the block.

“There is a lot of new development around here,” he said, pointing to apartment projects.

Norberg stopped in front of 1912 S. Broadway, a century-old theater that he and Paul Yaft, the business partner, bought for $1.6 million in 2018 and renovated during the pandemic.

“We love it. Is it a really scary property because of how expensive it is? Yes,” he said. “It was expensive to buy and expensive to renovate. We had some really dark days.”

But the challenges didn’t end when the renovations did. Last year, Norberg and Yaft leased the Jewel Theater to a local company called Latin Entertainment Group, which operated it as the Elite Event Center and threw Latin music parties there in August and September.

Neighbors complained about noise, trash and reports of violence that they blamed on the parties. They also took issue with a quirk in city licensing rules — “a loophole,” as Platt Park’s then-councilman put it — that let the Elite Event Center acquire so-called special event liquor permits. Those permits are designed for charities, not for-profit nightclubs.

“That wasn’t good for anybody,” Norberg said of the Elite Event Center. “But that’s history.”

Yaft and Norberg now plan to operate the Jewel Theater themselves. They expect to hire a manager and rent the space for weddings, bar mitzvahs and other events. They are also applying for a standard liquor license, something their former problem tenant didn’t do.

But when Yaft and Norberg make their case to the Department of Excise and Licenses next week, they can expect to hear opposition from people who live just east of the theater. Neighbors there have been signing a petition in opposition to the liquor license.

“Our goal isn’t to just automatically say ‘no,’ but we feel like we have to,” said Andrea Beatty, who has lived on the block behind the Jewel Theater for the past 11 years. “We don’t want to say, ‘Well, we’ll chance it’ and then it doesn’t go well and it’s a permanent license.”

“I just don’t want to risk it affecting our block. “ … I don’t want there to be parking issues, there to be trash, there to be safety concerns, there to be loud music.”

Kristin Zywusko, who lives about one block away, recalls picking up liquor bottles while walking her dog after last year’s parties at the Elite Event Center. She supports local businesses but believes Yaft and Norberg have done a poor job communicating with neighbors.

“We want businesses around,” Zywusko said. “My husband and I are fairly young, so we want to go to restaurants and go to bars, stuff like that, but they need to be respectful.”

Yaft and Norberg say they will do what they can. They plan to post signs asking guests not to park in the neighborhood — “But if somebody says, ‘Screw you, buddy, this is public parking,’ I can’t tow them,” Norberg notes — and may lease parking lots from neighboring companies on event nights. They may also run a shuttle from the theater to RTD’s Evans Station.

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