The Annotated Gospel According to Regas Christou
Anyone who knows Denver’s foul-mouthed, hyper-educated, perennially controversial nightclub king knows that he’s a storyteller. But whether you think he’s as fabulous as he claims to be—or merely a very entertaining fabulist—the one thing everyone can agree on is that the guy just can’t seem to keep his mouth shut.
Regas book IV
They always accuse me of pushing the envelope, whatever the fuck that is. If black people didn’t push the envelope, they’d still be sitting in the back of the bus.
This past April 19, several dozen people file into the airy lobby at the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Building. The space is aspirational and bright, with clouds pinwheeling above the four-story atrium. It instills a sense that city government can get things done—at least, until a hearing of the Excise and Licenses Department starts.
Christou had signed an agreement for the Living Room, a wine bar at 11th and Broadway, with several neighborhood groups. It said he could have a patio on the east side of the bar, facing Broadway, and if he wanted to open another patio, he needed the neighborhood groups’ approval. Instead, Christou built the patio first and then requested a modification to his liquor license, without asking the neighborhood groups.
And so, we’re here today for the license hearing. Most of the crowd is seated on Christou’s side, making it look like a lopsided wedding where he brought all the friends. His attorney, Adam Stapen, and Margie Valdez, the representative for the indignant neighborhood groups, spend two hours grilling witnesses before Christou finally takes the stand.
Valdez: “Did the original floor plan have both patios?”
Christou: “I don’t remember. I have so many floor plans, hearings, legal fees, I don’t remember, Margie.” He goes on to acknowledge that he asked neither the neighborhood groups nor the city before he enlarged the patio.
Valdez: “Did they cite you [for the violation]?”
Christou: “I don’t think so. I thought that reasonable people would not object to a patio in an alley.”
The problem isn’t really the patio. The Living Room is a wine bar, the least-rowdy property Christou owns. One Friday last summer, a jazz band of DU students played quietly on the small stage next to a white baby grand piano worthy of Elton John. The crowd talked easily over the low-key music. When Christou and I walked onto the patio, I didn’t see any residential buildings that might be bothered by the noise, just parking lots. The neighborhood groups are fighting the patio because Christou didn’t ask permission—and because they dislike every other business that Christou owns. Vinyl, The Church, and Bar Standard can host up to 4,000 customers, total, on a good Saturday night. When the bars empty, Christou’s patrons—some of them intoxicated—can get rambunctious and occasionally violent.
Revoking someone’s liquor license, though, is far more difficult than preventing them from expanding one to include a patio, which is why the neighborhood groups are challenging him on this apparent non-issue. To Christou, it’s further evidence that Valdez and her neighborhood groups don’t want younger, minority-heavy crowds to have fun. “We all live in America, but those who come from other countries have to work twice as hard and jump twice as high,” he said at the hearing. “The problem is part of the bigger picture. It’s obvious if my name was Jack Jones and I had blond hair and blue eyes, there wouldn’t be this problem.”
The neighborhood groups shouted, “No! That’s not true!” But Christou had gotten his shot in. After the meeting dragged on for more than three hours, the city sided with the neighborhood groups. The permit was denied; for now, no customers will be able to use the already-built patio. Christou has remained silent on the patio’s future, but he hasn’t taken it out, either.