Month: February 2014

The classist campaign against Nate’s Crown Liquor Store

After a recent Denver Homeless Out Loud meeting, Tim and Aurora Correa, owners of Aztlan Theatre, told some of us about the struggles of their business neighbor, Nate’s Crown Liquor Store, to stay open in the face of an assault against them by neighboring businesses.

Some of us went to last Thursday’s hearing re: whether the City’s Department of Excise and Licensing will renew the liquor license of Nate’s Crown Liquor Store at 11th and Santa Fe. The hearing we went to was devoted to hearing people who opposed renewal of the liquor license. It went quite late and I heard only three of the speakers but believe two or three others spoke, plus more were going to speak another night. This hearing has been continuing for several evenings I believe.

On Monday Feb 24th at 6pm in the License Renewal room on the second floor of the Webb Building (201 W Colfax), the store owners/managers will have their chance to testify, as will any others who want to speak in favor of the liquor license renewal. Both Raul, the manager of Nate’s, and our friends Tim and Aurora Correa, who own Aztlan Theatre, are hoping people will come to this hearing to support Nate’s effort to retain its liquor license. 

What is going on here? As best I can figure it out, from being at the hearing and also talking to Raul, the manager of Nate’s, a group of businesses around Nate’s at 11th and Santa Fe want Nate’s to close, because they believe having a store that sells alcohol to homeless people brings down the neighborhood and negatively impacts their businesses. Among the businesses that are working together to close Nate’s are a beauty salon, a Tai Chi studio, a veterinarian, a clothing/gift shop, and an architectural design firm. Raul showed us a stack of letters complaining about Nate’s that several businesses had written to the Excise and License Department.

Indeed, Nate’s, a neat, brightly painted, traditional little liquor store, stands in stark contrast to the earth-toned businesses around it. They are upscale, while it is…down-home, just itself, a remnant of the sort of businesses that surely dotted the neighborhood before gentrification and trendiness set in.

At the hearing I went to, the owners of the beauty salon and of the veterinary practice spoke, as well as a police officer. Both owners testified that people, purportedly customers of Nate’s, would drink in the area around their businesses, fight, panhandle and frighten customers, urinate, litter, come in to use their bathrooms, etc. The salon owner said such people made it hard for her to “grow our brand” with the community and also said it makes her sad that the liquor store makes a living “preying on these people “ (the so-called “habitual drunkards” ). (Why is it that whenever someone wants to screw homeless folks they say they’re doing it to protect them??) Asked by the city attorney whether she saw similar problems around the liquor stores on east Colfax, where her business was previously located, she said she did not–which I personally find very hard to believe. (And why was the city attorney asking such leading questions, aimed at skewering Nate’s?)

The veterinarian said inebriated people camp out on his property, and that they ruined the garden he spent $6000 to put in. He submitted many photos he’d taken of people and trash on and near his property–including people in the act of urinating–during the last two years. Yet he insisted that most of the people weren’t homeless, and that he resented the insinuation that “homeless” and “alcohol addicted” are synonymous.

On cross examination, both business owners had to agree they did not know whether the people bothering their customers, urinating in the alley, fighting, and throwing trash and bottles in the area were actually customers of Nate’s or not–nor did they know whether the bottles were from Nate’s.

The complainers accuse Nate’s of selling alcohol to intoxicated customers, in violation of State statute. Asked by Nate’s attorney whether they would be in favor of the liquor store staying in business if it followed “appropriate business practices,” the salon owner said yes, while the vet said no.

The District 6 (now District 1) police officer testified about being called to the 7-11 store, next to Nate’s, by the store’s manager on a night in September 2012, because a very intoxicated man came into the store. The man, who was taken to detox, said he’d bought beer at Nate’s.

I talked to Raul, the manager of Nate’s, who told me about two police officers who were waiting outside the store to breathalize a customer who had just bought alcohol. The customer was found to be intoxicated, and the store and clerk were ticketed. Raul explained that it’s often hard to know if a customer is intoxicated or not.

What I can’t help wondering is whether the police, under pressure from the trendy businesses in this rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, are targeting this particular liquor store in order to remove them from the area–with the businesses hoping that once Nate’s is gone, those of its customers who are homeless will also disappear.

But this whole situation just underscores the painful reality that gentrification, or the “upscaling” of neighborhoods, making them unaffordable to the people who once lived there–such as is happening in this area–is a major cause of homelessness. And, as Tim, who’s owned the neighboring Aztlan Theatre since 1970, told me, “when you force businesses like Nate’s to close, you just create more homeless people.”

Not that I’m a fan of alcohol, but somehow it doesn’t seem fair that housed people can buy all the booze they want, and take it home and get as drunk as they want, without anyone making a fuss about it. But unhoused people have nowhere to drink in private–should they want to drink–or to stash their purchases–or to pee in private, without someone taking their picture–for that matter. Where are the public bathrooms for unhoused people to use? And where is the affordable housing which would keep people from having to hang out in alleys and beg to use other peoples’ bathrooms?

Raul said the other businesses criticize him for selling “cheap” liquor–i.e. liquor that poor people can afford–as if that’s a crime! He also admitted that the other businesses have forced him to stop selling to “trouble makers”–and that might mean “homeless people”–talk about profiling! But they’re still not satisfied and want his business gone–probably to make way for another trendy upscale shop.

I’ll post new developments as they happen. 

Nancy

 

Introduction to DHOL

We Are Denver Homeless Out Loud

Denver Homeless Out Loud (DHOL) strives to stand for the rights of people who are experiencing homelessness. After surveying over 500 people who were experiencing homelessness at the end of the year 2012 in Denver about the effects of the urban camping ban, not surprisingly, the responses showed that the ban is not helping people sleep safely at night. The reality is that more people are entering less safe areas and experiencing further hardships. DHOL desires to make available more options of a place to call home and meet basic needs, and to stand for people’s right to exist in public space without being criminalized for doing so.

Group Organization

DHOL is a horizontal and consensus-based group. We don’t have a president, or any other single person who is in charge. Leadership is designated to point people who are given responsibility to lead particular jobs. Furthermore, leadership comes from all members who take initiative and responsibility to lead in many ways.

Meeting Procedures

During each meeting we have a facilitator, a note taker, and a scribe. Each of these positions is filled by different people each week. We work through our agenda, after creating it, based on the priorities we have at the time. Sometimes when we are discussing issues we have someone take “stack”, which means that we speak in the order people raise their hands so that everyone is able to speak without the meeting becoming a free for all.

Decisions

As a consensus-based group, decisions regarding DHOL are made after group discussion has led to an overall consensus on the decision. When making decisions as a group, we work toward consensus minus one (meaning all but one in the group, need to at least be ok with the decision). Individuals are free to decide for or against or stand aside or block any proposals made. While we welcome new members, a person attending for the first time doesn’t get a vote, but they are free and encouraged to speak during discussions.

Working Groups:

We have various “working groups” that have been looking at the specific details of various projects. They are as follows:

Get Loud

We are working to create a small paper with a three-fold goal. The primary goal is to give homeless individuals a voice. Many of them want to be able to tell people why they are where they are at and the specific issues they are dealing with daily. Another goal would be to give the general public a better understanding of what homelessness is like. A third goal is to provide real time information to the people in the homeless community about services, events and meetings that affect their lives.

Join us in the endeavor! We meet Tuesdays and Fridays from 11:30am to 1:30pm on the first floor of the Auraria library (near the Discovery Wall). You may also email getloud@denverhomelessoutloud.org or call the DHOL phone (720-415-2434).

Homeless Bill of Rights

Another item that we are helping to work toward is a Homeless Bill Of Rights (HBR) for the state of Colorado. These have passed in five state thus far (Rhode Island, Connecticut, Illinois, Vermont,and Massachusetts) and are being pursued in many other states. These bills protect against discrimination based on housing status and further can hinder or halt laws that criminalize homelessness (e.g camping bans, sleeping in cars…).

Join us in this endeavor!

We are currently working toward this goal in two sub groups:

Information Gathering from people experiencing homelessness about what sh*t people are up against and what people on the front lines want to see in a potential Homeless Bill of Rights. This group meets every other Monday at 3pm at the Spaghetti Dinner (16th and Grant). Email us at info@denverhomelessoutloud.org or call the DHOL phone (720-415-2434) to get involved.

Stigma busting…(more info to come)

Urban Rest Stops

Anyone who spends two days living in public spaces will quickly learn of the vast lack of public places to use a toilet or shower. Furthermore, you will soon find that there are very few places where you can store your belongings while walking about town, looking for work, or whatnot. DHOL would like to address these needs by opening spaces around Denver with restrooms, showers, storage boxes, and laundry facilities.

Join us in this endeavor! Meeting schedule for this working group currently is in flux. Email us at info@denverhomelessoutloud.org or call the DHOL phone (720-415-2434) to get involved.

Tiny Homes

One new, cheap, environmentally friendly, and empowering type of house that some cities are starting to build for people in need of a home are Tiny Homes. Tiny Homes are very small (e.g. 10 by 18ft) homes, that cost very little to build and maintain. With many empty lots all around Denver, and the minimal space which a Tiny Home takes, these could be put in clusters of 1-10 or more in various empty spaces around the city and provide homes for many. A couple of of DHOL members are beginning to build Tiny Homes for themselves to live in and as examples of what might be done.

Help out with this endeavor! Email us at info@denverhomelessoutloud.org or call the DHOL phone (720-415-2434) to get involved.

Structure: 

Funding

DHOL is set up as an unincorporated organization. We are currently operating on a shoestring with the remains of an anonymous grant we received to conduct our Camping Ban Survey and produce the report. We are seeking grants and other funding from various sources, and we welcome contributions, which will enable us to cover our expenses and keep doing this work!

You can contact us by phone (720-415-2434) or email (info@denverhomelessoutloud.org) to talk about this.

Transportation

If you need help with bus fare in order to attend a DHOL meeting, we have bus tickets available from and to the next meeting. If you drive a car but need help with gas costs in order to come to a DHOL meeting we can assist with this cost. If you need a ride to a meeting please try to call the day before.

Phone

Our phone number is (720) 415-2434. Someone is available to answer your questions about Denver Homeless Out Loud.

Email

We have two email lists that interested people may be added to. Anyone can be added to our “team” email list, which provides announcements about our activities. In order to be added to our “core team” email list someone needs to have come to at least one DHOL meeting (this email list has a high volume of emails). To be added to either of these lists, let us know at a meeting or contact us at info@denverhomelessloutloud.org.

Web Info

We have a website (www.denverhomelessoutloud.org) and a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/denverhomelessoutloud) where the general public can learn more about our mission and activities.