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Drive-in owner taking case to City Council

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By The Staff

COMMERCE CITY — After taking their troubles with local police and city officials to social media and their customers, the owners of the 88 Drive-In planned to go before City Council this week (after press deadline) to outline their complaints.

Susan Kochevar, owner of the 88 Drive-In, announced last week she would be delivering more than 5,300 petition signatures gathered via the Care2.com website imploring Commerce City police and city staff to “back down on its threats.”

The ‘threats” Kochevar alluded to related to a July 14 letter she received by Commerce City Chief of Police Troy Smith, which outlined a number of traffic concerns law enforcement and public safety officials have had concerning the drive-in theater, which experiences its highest levels of attendance during the summer movie season.

“The manner in which the Drive-In currently admits vehicles onto its property causes significant traffic congestion,” reads the letter from Chief Smith to Kochevar, further noting that the city is concerned with:
• Vehicles blocking the fire station entrance nearby and stopping on the railroad crossing;

• Aggressive driving by motorists seeking to get around the backup of cars waiting to enter the drive-in property;

• Motorists routinely blocking driveways and stopping along the street where parking is prohibited.

“The congestion created by Drive-In patrons leaves no room for emergency vehicles to get through ... this state of affairs places your customers, neighbors, and all those who visit or reside in the City in a potentially dangerous position,” Chief Smith wrote in his letter.

The city has taken to reposting the “No Left Turn” signs and directing drive-in traffic to State Highway 2 for access from northbound Rosemary Street, and Smith’s letter also warned that the business could be cited for obstruction of public ways if the traffic issues persist.

The Kochevars responded to Chief Smith’s letter with a news release that attempted to place the blame of any traffic issues with the city administrators.

“To the extent any ‘dilemma’ exists, it is due to the abject failure of Commerce City to plan appropriately for the traffic at this intersection,” the release read.

Kochevar reiterated her feelings that the city has not done enough in terms of city planning to accommodate the flow of traffic that the theater attracts.

“There used to be over 4,000 drive-ins in the country. Today, there are (fewer) than 400. Apparently, Commerce City would like one less. ... We have served this community for 40 years on this exact spot,” Kochevar said. “It makes no sense for this to become an immediate issue when the city has had four decades to plan for it.”

Numerous signers of the petition expressed their concern for the future of the 88 Drive-In, both in the face of potential citations and its financial well-being in general.

“The 88 Drive In Theater is the last remaining drive-in theater in the Denver metro area and ... is one of the only venues in the Denver metro area that many low-income families and single parents can afford to attend and enjoy a night out, away from the cares of the world, with their families,” wrote Anthony Hernandez on the Care2.com site. “The theater is also facing another imminent threat, the end of 35mm film distribution ... Commerce City should not be allowing its police chief to put an end to such an important landmark, nor should they be burdening the said landmark with yet more costly problems.”