Mutiny Information Cafe seized by the city over back taxes, but a GoFundMe saved it

Less than a week after it was seized by the city for non-payment of taxes, Mutiny Information Cafe appears poised for a comeback thanks to a last-minute campaign that netted the Denver business $58,000.

However, the timing of the comeback is still unclear, said co-owner Jim Norris, who is optimistic he can reopen the beloved comics-and-coffee shop later this week. He was quick to take responsibility for last week’s surprise closure by the Department of Finance, praising Mutiny’s latest, successful GoFundMe campaign as one in a series that has propped up the foundering business.

“It’s not the city’s fault. I just lost track of things, then it got too big,” he said by phone Monday as he stood outside his locked shop at South Broadway and Ellsworth Street. “I thought they’d come talk to me, and someone from the city dropped a card off, but there was no notification they were going to seize the property.”

Mutiny is one of hundreds of businesses that owe the city back taxes, according to Denver records, and is one of thousands of Colorado businesses across more than 90 pages of records at Amounts range anywhere from $1,000 to more than $1 million. Mutiny has 30 days to pay its delinquent taxes before the city closes it for good, Norris said.

Profit margins are razor-thin at Mutiny and at a handful of other DIY venues along this stretch of South Broadway, which is synonymous with Denver’s independent art and music scene. Mutiny sells coffee, comics, used books and tickets for comedy shows and podcasts that it holds in the back. It’s not a lucrative set-up, and Norris said he and co-owner Matt Megyesi haven’t drawn money from the business since late March in order to shore up finances.

Mutiny is one of 356 commercial addresses in historic Baker, which sits roughly between Sixth and Mississippi avenues along the pedestrian-friendly stretch of South Broadway, said realtor Vivi Gloriod. The average closing price of a residential unit in the neighborhood is about $687,295, according to recent data.

Crime, rising rents and minimum-wage increases have contributed to longtime Baker businesses closing in recent months, Ace Hardware owner Andy Carlson told BusinessDen last month. Despite $3.5 million in annual sales, Ace and its neighbors at 417 S. Broadway — a Sally Beauty shop and a Dollar Tree — will shutter at the end of the year to make way for the planned Broadway Park residential project.

Eli Imadali, Special to the Denver Post

Devin Dube stands outside of Mutiny Information Cafe in Denver on Wednesday, July 29, 2020.

The problems at Mutiny spring from similar setbacks, such as pricey vandalism and rising employee costs, Norris said, but also the heart attack of co-founder Matt Megyesi and theft by one of his employees. The crises came to a head on Friday, Sept. 23, when Norris arrived to find himself locked out of the shop, his cat and various personal effects still inside. Hours later, he launched the GoFundMe campaign to raise the necessary $42,126 to settle up with the city, Denverite’s Kyle Harris first reported.

Norris also in recent weeks has taken steps to stabilize Mutiny by raising prices, cleaning house with employees “who weren’t doing anything for me,” and changing the business hours. When that wasn’t enough, he turned to GoFundMe and quickly found about 1,100 donors who were ready to help settle Mutiny’s unpaid taxes. He’s also waiting on a new PPP loan he was approved for, he said, and working with his bank on that.

“After all of this — including going back to work there myself 40 hours a week, and just feeling downtrodden and dejected about the state of Denver — I’ve been reinvigorated,” Norris said. “People really do care.”

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