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Denver businesses survive COVID-19 pandemic only to be forced out by landlords

Posted at 5:46 PM, Oct 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-14 18:49:56-04

UPDATE: Thursday, Oct. 14: The Molecule Effect says the landlord is working with them to stay in their current location for another 6 months while they look for a new location.

“We are very grateful to him for this additional time and look forward to the next 6 months of serving you while we look for our future home in the Santa Fe Arts District,” the team said. “Mark and I are without words for the support and love you have shared for our staff and for The Molecule Effect and for that we are forever grateful.”

The team said it will be holding a reopening party on Saturday, Oct. 23 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. which will feature wine, martinis, beer and a raffle.


DENVER — When Mark Landman and his wife, Megyn Rodgers, opened the Molecule Effect seven years ago they wanted to create a place for the community to gather. They credit that strong sense of community with helping their business survive the COVID-19 pandemic but now they're facing another unexpected blow.

Landman and Rodgers received a notice in the mail last month that will ultimately terminate them as a tenant at their location in the Santa Fe Arts District. The couple said they did everything possible to keep their coffee shop and wine bar afloat and were shocked by the letter.

"We just got the SBA money and we just now have to start paying that back. And now that we’ve been told, basically, get out, we’re going to be left with those loans," said Landman.

The owners said they were in the process of renegotiating their lease when the pandemic hit and decided to go month-to-month under the premise that their lease would be renewed once the business climate improved.

"We all agreed to new rent amounts and what the terms of the lease would look like," said Landman while talking about their conversation with the landlord.

"We were starting to see the business come back. We had started to see some of our customers that didn’t feel comfortable going out, people coming out," said Rodgers. "We were like, 'OK we can take a breath now.' It's shocking."

Denver7 reached out to Horace Properties in hopes of getting an explanation. Horace McCowan said he reached out to the owners of Molecule Effect multiple times to renew the lease with no response. He added that he provided "generous rent concessions" during the height of COVID-19.

McCowan said he only receive a response after they received the legal notice of not continuing the lease. Now, he says he has lost trust in the landlord-tenant relationship.

The Molecule Effect is not alone. Factotum Brewhouse in the Sunnyside neighborhood is closing on Oct. 9. In an online post, owners wrote to loyal customers with heavy hearts to say their lease was not renewed. The post said, "There are a lot of moving pieces to the story but the short story is that our landlord has decided to lease the space to a higher paying renter. We have known this was a possibility for some time, but had hoped that business income and rent demands would soon align."

Landman and Rodgers said they worry about the loss for Denver neighborhoods when businesses that are so vital to the community are forced out.

"I think the hardest part is going to be closing that door for the last time and saying goodbye to our customers and our staff. We have 16 employees that rely on the work they do here for the income, that they make, and many of them may have to go on unemployment again," said Landman. "We want to do everything that we can to have a shop in this neighborhood."

The Molecule Effect at 525 Santa Fe Drive will host customers for the last time on Oct. 15, and the Washington Park location will remain open. The owners are currently trying to work out a deal for a new space in the Santa Fe Arts District but they will have to build out the space and the construction will likely take months to complete.

"We worked really hard and to just have that taken away without any explanation, no communication," said Rodgers.