Jim Norris and Matt Megyesi sat together, tucked away at the tail-end of Mutiny Information Cafe, the shop they both own, coffees in hand and surrounded by countless shelves of books, a piano, pinball machines and an array of items on the wall that would bode well in an “I Spy” book.
“It’s a virtual museum of Denver. You know, underground stuff,” Norris said, as he scanned the wall and pointed. “That’s Rainbow Music Hall. That’s all the autographed stuff from way back in the 80s. I worked with Bluebird and stuff, so all these clip-on letters—those are from the Bluebird, Ogden, and Oriental Theater. That’s from the Ogden Theatre, when nobody in particular ran it.”
Norris and Megyesi have worked together off-and-on for over 25 years, making zines in the early 90s, running coffee shops, hopping trains, and doing construction, before taking over ownership of Mutiny in 2013. Jack Jensen was the previous owner, “one of the original punk rockers of Denver,” Norris said, when Mutiny was a bookstore with no seats and no coffee.
Jensen’s spirit and initial vision ignited what Mutiny is today. As Megyesi said, “This place was a bookstore for 35 years, so there are books on these shelves that have been here for those 35 years,” but Jensen’s ‘f*ck you, get out’ attitude was something that the two co-owners wanted to change when they took the reigns.
“That punk rock piece of him was, ‘F*ck you; I won’t do what you tell me.’ On the flipside of that, we’ve opened it up, you know? People are encouraged to come in here and sit and look at a book or listen to something,” Megyesi said. “Before it was, ‘Get in, get out.’ Now it’s more, ‘Come on in. Check things out.’”
It’s clear talking to the co-owners that they are in awe of the work they do for a living. Talking about their roles in elevating Mutiny to what it is today, they beamed and grinned, speaking about the community they cultivated, especially among Denver’s creatives. “Any given moment, there’s probably someone around here drawing cartoons for a comic book,” Norris said.
Both emphasized that the shop thrives upon community and provides a space for artists of any background to feel empowered to share their work.
“We’ve watched kids come and go, ‘cause me and Matt got our start in doing zines a long time ago,” Norris said. “So, when some young kid comes in and talks about doing a zine, you just say, ‘Do it,’ you know, and they go, ‘What? I have a spot to do it?’”
While creating a space for creativity to thrive is a staple of Mutiny’s culture, the owners emphasized that creating a place for anyone to stop in and feel comfortable exploring was critical.
Embracing artists, writers, musicians, and an alternative community inherently means embracing LGBTQ people. The cafe is located on Broadway and Ellsworth, and it was almost hard to keep up with Norris and Megyesi as they discussed the LGBTQ history of the neighborhood.
“There was the bathhouse, the biggest bathhouse west of the Mississippi kind of deal. Three Kings was a gay bar,” Norris said.
“And there was the Logan bar, The Cherry Pit,” Megyesi said.
“There was Mike’s on Broadway for like 18 years, which was 18 years in, like, the 80s,” Norris said. “So, a gay bar from the 70s to the 80s? Those guys were amazing. Strong. I mean, in the middle of the West? I don’t know, just fierce, fierce people that settled this neighborhood. So, we want to honor that spirit, you know?”
With all of the nightlife packed into the area, Mutiny also offers something that many other spots don’t: an alcohol-free, all-ages venue that is open late. Ultimately, Norris and Megyesi said the goal is to move to a 24-hour schedule, but in the meantime, both were proud to offer an option to people who want to go out to a late-night spot without alcohol and get a similar experience.
“When you have a place like this, in the middle of all this night life, you come in here, and you have people having a good time and talking,” Megyesi said. “You’ve got the pinball machines that keep people entertained. You might have a comedy show, or a rock show, or even a movie showing. You’ve got a lot of creative stuff that’s going on that keeps people’s attention, and that’s why people go to bars: because they want to have their attention captivated.”
The owners emphasized that enhancing Mutiny in the past five years meant taking one step at a time and building on what the shop already had. Mutiny was able to shift and grow, but the staff is still small, and the owners are careful not to bite off too much at a time.
The focus now is ensuring that Mutiny continues to thrive and evolve, and both owners said they’ve set themselves up for success so far. Adding more locations is the next step for Norris and Megyesi, though there is an element of cultural responsibility in branching out.
“I think expansion in the next two years is going to be a big thing for us, just making sure we’re doing it right,” Megyesi said. “Imagine one of these, you know, not necessarily with a big venue in the back, but one of these in the middle of Littleton or Arvada? Something where kids can go to.”
Norris added, “Kids can come in there and, you know, where can I buy a Noam Chomsky book, or a Dead Kennedys record, or a cup of coffee, and maybe go play some pinball, and buy the new Deadpool? That’s how we can change everything around us.”
Living under the Trump Administration, Norris and Megyesi were firm on defending their cafe as a safe spot for people of different backgrounds and identities, and Norris said that keeping Mutiny a haven for knowledge, information, and creativity inherently makes that possible.
“We’ve got that giant, neon, ‘books’ sign, and if that’s what attracts you into the door, that means 90 percent of the people that walk in that door are awesome people, because they’re attracted to books. That eliminated all those MAGA hats, all those idiot people. Just doing what we do eliminates the bullsh*t, you know?”
Mutiny Information Cafe was voted by OUT FRONT readers as the Best Place to Grab a Cup of Coffee for 2018. Check them out at 2 S. Broadway: you will inevitably uncover far more there than just a tasty, brewed beverage.
Photos courtesy OUT FRONT and Facebook