Yet another one of Denver’s stalwart hospitality businesses has announced its closing. This one, however, is expected to be temporary.
As of Monday, Coffee at The Point, which has been serving up caffeine fixes to locals in Five Points since 2010, is closed “for a makeover, do-over, and remodel,” owner Ryan Cobbins announced on social media. The business is expected to reopen on Sept. 13.
In his note, Cobbins laid out several challenges Coffee at The Point has been facing – including inflation, the rising cost of labor, and staffing difficulties – that are all too familiar to folks in the hospitality industry. His biggest, though, is unique to the neighborhood.
“In the last year, there have been a compounding amount of events that have been taxing,” Cobbins wrote. “The most profound has been watching the decimation of my neighborhood with one person single-handling working to exit businesses, including this beloved friend that I idolized suing Coffee at The Point; and him sending legal papers to 7 other businesses and individuals in the Five Points neighborhood.”
Cobbins is talking about Matthew Burkett, CEO of The FlyFisher Group, which owns several buildings in Five Points. According to BusinessDenver, the company has worked with billionaire Denverite Robert Smith and spent at least $12 million since 2018 to buy real estate in a two-block stretch of Welton Street that included the beloved Welton Street Cafe. (The cafe has since moved to take-out only at 2258 California St. while building out a new permanent location.)
As Cobbins tells it, he and Burkett signed a partnership agreement in 2020 that gave Burkett an ownership stake in Coffee at The Point. That agreement also included a salaried position for Cobbins at Pure Hospitality, the culinary arm of The FlyFisher Group that was preparing to open several new establishments in the neighborhood, plus money to remodel the coffee shop, Cobbins said.
According to media reports, Burkett signed similar agreements with other Five Points businesses. The goal, as Cobbins understood it, was to build a consortium of businesses that streamlined services and drove down costs in an effort to support the neighborhood.
But this spring, Burkett sued Cobbins alleging a breach of a contract. And now Cobbins is hoping to settle the dispute and get back to business. (Burkett could not immediately be reached for comment.)
“The challenge is I’m gonna need to put money into the shop. We are out of money,” Cobbins told The Denver Post. “If [Burkett] wants to continue the partnership as he has this agreement that’s hanging over my head, my expectation for him is (the) same amount of dollars I’m putting in, he needs to put in also.”
Cobbins acknowledged that the lawsuit is just one factor, if the largest, that led to Coffee at The Point’s closure. Though the shop maintained a full staff, Cobbins said employees were often late and frequently closed the business early, and recently the level of service has not been to his standards. The entire staff was laid off due to the closure, he said.
So when Coffee at The Point reopens, the aforementioned “remodel” will be mostly cultural, though Cobbins is also looking for ways to consolidate inventory and simplify the workload for the onsite employees. Long-term plans include updating the lobby, gathering areas and furniture, but first, he said, the lawsuit needs to be settled.
And if it’s not by Sept. 13?
“We will have to work it out. I keep telling people I’m an eternal optimist,” Cobbins said. “I want to work this out. He’s suing me, so there has to be some form end game.”
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