By Tori Mason

(CBS4) — Businesses in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood say they’re being victimized by a predatory landlord. The establishments are leasing from the Denver-based Flyfisher Group. Flyfisher’s owner, Matthew Burkett, claims his goal was to protect the legacy of Five Points and give businesses the tools they need to succeed. Several owners say that couldn’t be further from the truth.

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“Every business we’ve talked to, even the white-owned businesses, have felt some sort of victimization by Matthew Burkett, either personally or through his lawyers,” said Chuck Jones, co-owner of Agave Shore in Five Points Plaza.

Before opening the restaurant, Jones and Agave’s other owner, Lejon Vivens, were brought on by Burkett to provide consulting for his hospitality projects. After leasing the Flyfisher space to open their restaurant, Burkett offered to buy a stake in the business and have a final say on decisions. Jones and Vivens declined.

That’s when their relationship with Burkett began to change.

“Several months later, he just started contacting us regarding ticky-tack things that we were not in compliance of,” Jones explained. “All of a sudden, we owe past due CAMS [common area maintenance] for a business that preceded us, even though our contract clearly stated that all previous liabilities would go into previous tenant.”

Burkett filed a lawsuit against Agave that was recently settled out of court.

“It’s either a play ball, or we’re going to scrape the plate clean with you,” Jones said. “It impacts you emotionally, mentally, and in all these cases, financially. We had to spend $13,000 not to go to court,” Jones said.

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Flyfisher also put Welton Street Café in a tough position when they were leasing the space nearby, putting them on a month-to-month lease and refusing to fix their HVAC system. In March, the beloved anchor tenant left the space they’ve operated in for decades.

“Why would they be expected to buy an HVAC if they don’t have a long-term lease? That in essence is buying an HVAC for the landlord when they can be evicted the very next month,” Jones said. “These types of scenarios have happened over and over down here. It’s upsetting to us because we’re literally watching our neighbors, our friends, walk away from the investments that they’ve made because they can’t afford legal representation.”

Coffee at the Point owner Ryan Cobbins is also being sued by Burkett. He shared his story during a meeting for Five Points businesses Monday evening.

Cobbins made a deal with Burkett for 40% of his business for $28,000. That deal also came with a salary position with the firm’s food and beverage group that included some equity in the food and beverage business. Burkett also told Cobbins he would pay for renovations at Coffee at the Point.

“We’re talking about up to about a $200,000 renovation. I spent money in printing all the blueprints and plans for the space and none of that stuff came to flourish,” Cobbins said.

Cobbins and Burkett eventually agreed to end their partnership, but later hit the coffee shop owner with a lawsuit claiming their original agreement was breached.

Cobbins’ lawyer told him it would cost around $50,000 in legal fees to go to court. CBS4 spoke to another business leasing from Flyfisher, but they could not comment due to ongoing litigation.

Burkett has not responded to our request for comment.

Tori Mason