Grateful Dead-themed bar Sancho’s, facing drug allegations, shuts down

Sanchos Broken Arrow

Photo courtesy of the Denver Post.

Facing allegations of cocaine dealing that were sure to result in a harsh punishment from the city, Sancho’s Broken Arrow along East Colfax has instead closed after 22 years.

The Grateful Dead-themed bar and music venue was to be the subject of a hearing Thursday morning at which police and city prosecutors would have gone down a list of accusations and made the case that Sancho’s should be closed either temporarily or permanently.

Instead, on Wednesday, the bar’s owners reached an agreement with the Denver City Attorney’s Office and the hearing was canceled. Current and former Sancho’s owners then gathered longtime regulars and Deadheads together for one last party that night.

“Sancho’s has been an institution in Colorado for 22 years and I am very sad to announce that it will not be in that location anymore,” former owner Jay Bianchi wrote on Facebook Wednesday. “It really was the heart of town and the best place to go before and after anything.”

Wednesday’s closure marks the second time this month that a Deadhead venue founded by Bianchi and now co-owned by Tyler Bishop agreed to close due to drug allegations. In mid-October, So Many Roads in the Baker neighborhood reached a settlement that will force it to close during November.

Bianchi’s brother, Sancho’s co-founder Phil Bianchi, died in 2017. Jay Bianchi wrote on Facebook that the bar at 741 E. Colfax Ave., hasn’t been the same since then: “Without him there, the place became a cruel mockery of what it had been.”

Skyler McKinley, a spokesman for AAA Colorado, attended the final night and posted a fond remembrance on Twitter: “It’s where I learned to love Grateful Dead music in the way I love it to this day. I will miss Sancho’s, and I’m sorry this era is ending this way.”

The settlement between Bishop and the City Attorney’s Office has not been formally approved by the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses and therefore could not be released publicly, according to a department spokesman.

Meanwhile, the City Attorney’s Office says a public nuisance case against the former Sancho’s property is still pending. The case was opened in August after the city determined the property was used in the commission of crimes, namely drug dealing. A hearing is set for Dec. 6.

Because the case is pending and there is a temporary restraining order in place, any business at 741 E. Colfax must remain closed until the case is resolved, according to Marley Bordovsky, director of prosecution and code enforcement in the City Attorney’s Office.

Since early 2021, Sancho’s employees have been accused by city regulators of dealing cocaine and the psychedelic DMT, manufacturing DMT, allowing drug use at the bar, hiring a cocaine dealer to provide security without a license and serving underage customers.

The most serious allegations concern Steven Ackermann, who worked at Sancho’s and So Many Roads. Ackermann faces felony charges of dealing cocaine to undercover Denver police officers last September and was also the unlicensed security guard at Sancho’s, according to the Department of Excise and Licenses.

So Many Roads reached a settlement with the city this month in which it admitted that Ackermann sold cocaine there and at Sancho’s.

Bishop has been the owner of So Many Roads and majority owner of Sancho’s since 2020. He did not respond to a request for more information about Sancho’s future.

Sanchos Broken Arrow

Photo courtesy of the Denver Post.

A pending settlement has been reached between the city and bar ownership, whose other Dead-themed venue will close for November.

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