Perhaps this is the end of the drama surrounding Jesse Morreale: El Diablo and Sketch closed their doors last night, ending what has been over ten months of battling the city and closing and opening several times due to a dispute focused around the safety of the 107 year old building housing the two restaurants.
Morreale owns the two restaurants and a separate entity, Morreale Hotels LLC, owns the building at First Avenue and Broadway. Late afternoon yesterday, El Diablo posted a long explanation on its Facebook page sharing with fans the reasons behind the closure and asking them to come in for one last night.
It is with heavy hearts that we are announcing that tonight, May 2, will be El Diablo and Sketch Food & Wine's last day of business.
This closure has nothing to do with the restaurants themselves, we have been operating safely and successfully for over 4 years. Morreale Hotels, the owner of the building, and the restaurants simply can no longer contend with what we believe has been a predetermined course by the City of Denver since July 2012 to see that the building be closed and these great restaurants be put out of business. Even though we believe it is unquestionable that the City's actions have been arbitrary and capricious, the damage that has been inflicted upon our resources and operations is too severe for us to recover from and we have no choice but to close.
We are heartbroken at this turn of events and the cost, not just to the businesses and to the community surrounding them, but to our loyal and hard-working staff that will be losing their jobs as a result.
We'd like to thank you all for the years of loyal support and patronage, and invite you to join us tonight to say goodbye to the restaurants we all love that have contributed so much to the revitalization of Broadway and were the anchor for helping to restore the once blighted 1st Ave Hotel.
We want to extend our heartfelt hanks to each and every one of you for the great memories -- we will miss you all!
For the sake of clarity, El Diablo opened its doors in August 2010, less than three years ago.
The troubles began in July 2012 when the Denver Department of Community Planning and Development has posted Danger signs on both establishments that read: "Continued occupancy of this structure poses an immediate hazard to the life safety of occupants and the public. Per 2011 Denver Building Code (CBC) Sections 104 and 105, the referenced site is ordered immediately vacated. Failure to immediately vacate shall result in further City action." The restaurants reopened after three weeks and the city gave Morreale until October 1, 2012 to complete the agreed upon work plan. The Department of Community Planning and Development subsequently extended its deadline to October 31. Morreale, however, continued to deny that the building needs repairs.
In December 2012, the story was further complicated by a foreclosure action on and a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by Morreale Hotels LLC, the entity that owned the building. At that time, Morreale stated in unequivocal terms that the foreclosure was not threatening the existence and operation of the restaurants. He explained that separate entities owned the building and the restaurants. A loan on the building held by Morreale Hotels LLC was seized by the FDIC. In an attempt to stop foreclosure from one of the entities claiming to own the loan (according to Morreale, over a period of 17 months, nine entities had claimed to own the loan), Morreale Hotels LLC, filed for Chapter 11 protection, a procedure that involves reorganization of a debtor's business affairs and assets.
On January 4, 2013, the City of Denver posted a notice to vacate on the building at First Avenue and Broadway that houses El Diablo and Sketch restaurants. The notice of unsafe structure and order to vacate prohibited occupancy of the building. A week later, Morreale Hotels was granted a 10 day temporary restraining order against the city which allowed Sketch and El Diablo to reopen. At the end of January, the city process was restarted with a hearing that gave Morreale another sixty days to make the necessary repairs. Morreale, however, was still not on board with making any repairs.
So there it went. On April 25, Morreale was served with a notice to vacate the building on May 3, which was last night when the lights went dark.
Morreale's troubles with the city also extended to Rockbar, a bar he owned on Colfax Avenue. Rockbar closed in October 2012 after the city of Denver refused to renew the establishment's cabaret and liquor license.