City rejects settlement with Grateful Dead-themed bar So Many Roads

The city’s liquor license agency on Thursday rejected a settlement agreement with a Denver bar that has repeatedly been the subject of police stings for underage alcohol sales and drug dealing.

Molly Duplechian, executive director of Denver Department of Excise and Licenses, declined to comment on why she rejected the settlement, which was made between So Many Roads Brewery, a Grateful Dead-themed bar and music venue at 918 W. 1st Ave., and the City Attorney’s Office. But in her decision, Duplechian wrote that “any agreement reached … must include the penalty to be assessed against” So Many Roads owner Tyler Bishop.

An agency spokesman said Duplechian didn’t feel comfortable with the terms. As a result, the City Attorney’s Office will either have to present an alternative agreement, or the case will move forward at a hearing, in late September, where the fate of So Many Roads’ liquor license could be determined.

In that scenario, “the hearing officer will hear evidence and testimony from the city and the liquor license holder, then issue a recommended decision,” wrote Excise and Licenses spokesman Eric Escudero in an email to The Denver Post.

Very few settlement agreements are ever rejected because the goal of enforcement is not to shut businesses down but rather achieve compliance, Escudero has said in the past. In fact, 94% of all licensing “show cause” orders issued by his department are geared toward that, “unless the city sees no pathway to achieve compliance” and must revoke a business’s license.

Bishop said he was unaware of the rejection when reached by The Denver Post Thursday afternoon. He did not return additional requests for comment Friday. The City Attorney’s Office also did not immediatley respond to requests for comment.

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.

During an undercover operation in February, a police cadet was given a green wristband and allowed by a staffer to enter the bar, the investigation found, despite the fact that the words “Under 21” were clearly printed on the cadet’s vertical driver’s license, and that his fellow undercover officer had a legitimate, over-21 ID. “Upon entering … the underage cadet went to the bar and ordered two Coors Light beers from a white male with grey hair, who was working as a bartender,” according to an April 30 order by Excise and Licenses.

This bartender was later identified as Jay M. Bianchi, who formerly co-owned So Many Roads with Bishop as well as the Dead-themed Capitol Hill bar, Sancho’s Broken Arrow, police said.

Sancho’s was the site of numerous complaints of alleged sexual assault, drugging, drug sales, and underage violations before it was ordered to permanently shut down in October 2022. Denver police detectives have repeatedly declined to say whether Bianchi is under criminal investigation related to those accusations.

As a result of the February sting, the City Attorney’s Office set up the new hearing with Bishop for June 29, which eventually led to the now-rejected Aug. 16 agreement that was submitted for approval to Duplechian.

So Many Roads will be allowed to remain open at least until its Sept. 27 show-cause hearing.

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