Grateful Dead Venue in East Colfax faces license revocation

Following an investigation by the Denver Police Department that began in January 2021 and ran through April of this year, the Denver Department of Excise and Licensing is seeking the suspension or revocation of the liquor licenses for Sancho’s Broken Arrow and So Many Roads Brewery due to a series of accusations. , including cocaine trafficking by a staff member and the sale of alcohol to minors.

On May 23, Excise and Licensing Executive Director Molly Duplechian issued show cause orders for Sancho’s Broken Arrow, a Don Quixote-themed venue located at 741 East Colfax Avenue, and So Many Roads Brewery. , at 918 West First Ave.

Both the music and liquor venues were once owned by promoter and Grateful Deadhead Jay Bianchi, who in 2020 transferred his ownership interest so that Tyler Bishop owned two-thirds and Timothy Premus owned one-third of Sancho’s; Bishop also took over as sole owner of So Many Roads Brewery. Bianchi said he would retire as a music promoter in the summer of 2021, when he was dealing with sexual assault allegations, which he denied, and union grievances over fair pay.

The investigation of Sancho’s and So Many Roads began after DPD received an anonymous tip that Sancho’s employees were selling dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a Schedule 1 drug, and cocaine, a Schedule II drug.

In February 2021, the Denver Police Department dispatched two undercover plainclothes vice officers, Officer Sierra Kenoyer and Detective Michael James, to Sancho’s Broken Arrow to investigate and possibly make an undercover drug purchase. The two officers were unable to purchase drugs the first night they went to Sancho’s, but they did observe a bartender engage in what appeared to be a “hand-to-hand narcotics transaction” with Bishop, according to the Excise and Licensing show-cause. order for Sancho’s.

Kenoyer and another colleague, Officer Jessica Delarow, visited Sancho’s later that month, when they reportedly chatted with the same bartender about how he makes homemade DMT; Kenoyer returned in early March to try to buy DMT from the bartender, who informed him that he was missing.

On September 23, 2021, two Denver NCOs, listed only by their last names of Streeter and Esparza on the arraignment warrant, visited So Many Roads with the intent to purchase drugs. While on location, the two undercover officers became acquainted with Steve Ackermann, who works at both locations in maintenance, security and stage set-up. In accordance with the show cause order, Ackermann arranged to sell the two officers cocaine later that night at Sancho’s Broken Arrow.

When the two officers showed up at Sancho’s, they allegedly followed Ackermann into the men’s room, where they observed Ackermann and another staff member take cocaine. Cops gave Ackermann $100 in exchange for a bag filled with a white powdery substance, which later tested positive for cocaine, weighing 0.843 grams, according to the city.

A week later, officers returned to Sancho’s Broken Arrow to conduct another covert purchase operation. Ackermann told officers that he had been working “off the record” for Jay Bianchi since 2011.

“Ackermann said that Jay knows he sells narcotics at the location and said Jay gets high with them all the time. Ackermann said that the exchange of payments occurs between Ackermann and Jay through a ‘hippie tax’. Ackermann described the hippie tax by stating that Ackermann brings business to Jay’s bar, attracts more people who often buy drinks, and when Jay catches Ackermann selling narcotics, Ackermann will give Jay whatever money Ackermann made from that sale. Ackermann noted that Jay has never said anything. or he told Ackermann to stop selling at any of the bars Jay owns,” the warrant says. Officers reportedly purchased 0.427 grams of cocaine that night from Ackermann.

On November 6, 2021, Officer Esparza reported to Sancho’s with Officer Brayan Silva. The two then bought 0.733 grams of cocaine, according to city documents.

On November 17, Officer Streeter entered Sancho’s Broken Arrow in civilian clothes and proceeded to arrest Ackermann. A search of Excise and Licensing records did not find Ackermann listed as a security guard, nor did Sancho’s Broken Arrow show up as “ever having a security guard employer license.”

In December 2021, Denver police officers interviewed Ackermann, who denied dealing narcotics. Ackermann did not respond to a request for comment sent to his personal Facebook account.

“I’m not involved,” says Bianchi. “My brother died from narcotics, I don’t like narcotics, I don’t condone or condone their use. I am vehemently opposed. It seems to be an issue of Ackerman trying to find a scapegoat. I visit Sancho’s as a customer.”

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So Many Roads faces its first license complaint.

kyle harris

In February and March of this year, Denver police conducted two undercover operations to see if Sancho’s would sell alcohol to a minor; on both occasions, the minor was able to purchase alcohol. DPD officers carried out the same operation twice in So Many Roads in March and April. And again in March, Denver police officers ran another sting drug operation, allegedly buying 0.941 grams of Ackermann for $100.

While So Many Roads has never gotten into licensing trouble before, Sancho’s Broken Arrow has. In 2019, the Department of Excise and Licensing banned the venue for employing an unlicensed security guard and serving alcohol to a minor. In March 2020, the city also criticized Sancho’s Broken Arrow for allowing people to drink and smoke marijuana on the premises, despite strict COVID-19 restrictions at the time that prohibited such gatherings.

In January of this year, Sancho’s received a license complaint for employing an unlicensed security guard, who was also reportedly in unlawful possession of a Taser. That same citation reprimanded Sancho’s for not offering sandwiches or snacks during business hours, which is a requirement for a venue with a tavern liquor license.

According to today’s show cause hearings, which will be adjudicated in a single administrative hearing on June 21, Sancho’s faces citations for four counts of cocaine trafficking, two counts related to an unlicensed security guard and two counts of allowing the underage drinking, as well as three charges related to the conduct of a facility, including allowing marijuana use on the premises. So Many Roads faces charges of trafficking cocaine, selling alcohol to a minor and allowing illegal acts to occur on the property.

Bishop and Premus have not responded to messages sent to their personal Facebook accounts, nor to a message left with a Sancho’s Broken Arrow staff member.

Updated: This story was updated at 5pm on May 22 to include a comment from Jay Bianchi.

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