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It’s Shangri-La for the down and out.
A decked-out, open-air tavern for the homeless that also rents out tents for prostitution has popped up in downtown Denver, according to police.
The pop-up speakeasy — which features lounge chairs, umbrellas and astroturf — has taken over the sidewalk at 23rd Street and Champa Street, which the city’s growing homeless population turned into an encampment.
“We’re hearing there was an open bar, sales of alcohol, things like that,” Denver Police Patrol Division Chief Aaron Sanchez told CBS Colorado while surveying the tent city saloon Monday. “We have officers looking into that.”
City officials have received “numerous complaints” about the encampment blocking the sidewalk, forcing pedestrians to walk in the street to pass the block.
One of the tents appeared to have been transformed into a speakeasy, complete with numerous couches, rugs and tables.
The spot was littered with dozens of liquor bottles — all of which were empty and displayed proudly on thrifted dressers and bookcases when police rolled through earlier this week.
There have been complaints that the couches at the streetside bar and surrounding tents are being rented out for prostitution, Sanchez said.
Meghan Shay, an executive at homeless aid group Step Denver, told CBS she noticed the apparent bar herself during one of her morning drives to work.
She said an encampment serving liquor to the unhoused would only exacerbate the city’s homeless problem, citing a report claiming over 80% of the homeless have experienced lifetime alcohol and/or drug problems.
A 2022 report on street mortality showed that drugs and alcohol were the cause of 60% of homeless deaths, Shay said.