Denver’s So Many Roads Brewery has been ordered to close for 90 days and, upon reopening, will not be allowed to brew its own beer or hold live music performances for the next year as part of a new settlement with the city.
It’s the latest in a string of attempts to preserve the troubled, Grateful Dead-themed bar’s business, which for more than two years has been the subject of underage alcohol-sale and drug dealing investigations by the Denver Police Department, and before that, complaints and picketing over the alleged misdeeds of former co-owner Jay Bianchi.
Earlier this month, the city’s liquor licensing department took the highly unusual step of rejecting a settlement with So Many Roads owner Tyler Bishop that had been brokered with the City Attorney’s Office. Molly Duplechian, executive director of the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses, declined to comment on why she rejected it, but in her decision, she wrote that “any agreement reached … must include the penalty to be assessed against” Bishop.
The rejected settlement — as well as the one reached today — cover a new round of violations by So Many Roads, according to city documents, including going awry of the terms of a separate late 2022 settlement and, in February, serving alcohol to an underage Denver police cadet.
Duplechian declined a Denver Post request for comment, but the new agreement will allow the bar, at 918 W. 1st Ave., to remain open if it satisfies the following conditions:
- Closing for 90 consecutive days, from Oct. 1 through Dec. 29, 2023
- Admitting to and posting notices for the Feb. 10 violations of its previous settlement agreement, including three violations of underage alcohol sales laws, and one failure to check ID
- Revocation of the Dance Cabaret and Brew Pub Liquor Licenses for 12 months. The former allows the venue to hold live musical performances and DJ nights. The second allows it to brew and serve its own beer. Any new violations would result in a permanent revocation of the licenses and a penalty to be decided later.
Bishop didn’t immediately return requests for comment Wednesday.
So Many Roads first ran into problems in the fall of 2022 when a Denver police sting resulted in four counts of providing alcohol to a minor, one count of distribution of a controlled substance (cocaine), and one count of disorderly behavior. In that case, the City Attorney’s Office and bar came to an agreement on Oct. 12 that closed So Many Roads for 30 days, through November.
The jam-band venue, which also describes itself as a Grateful Dead museum, reopened in December 2022 with the proviso that it would be on probation for 12 months, having admitted to the violations that occurred between Sept. 23, 2021, and March 25, 2022. But within two months of reopening, So Many Roads violated the terms of that agreement, according to a Feb. 10 investigation by Denver police.
As with 94% of all licensing “show cause” cases, as these types of issues are called, the goal is never to revoke or suspend a liquor license, but to “attain compliance of city and state rules and regulations,” according to Excise and Licenses spokesman Eric Escudero. “Unless the city sees no pathway to achieve compliance.”
Another avenue the city takes when there is no path towards achieving compliance — or sometimes when there are very severe violations of law — is to pursue a public nuisance case. That’s the case for So Many Roads’ sister bar, Sancho’s Broken Arrow, which surrendered its license as part of the overall settlement and closed permanently in October 2022.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter, In The Know, to get entertainment news sent straight to your inbox.