Restaurants holding fundraiser for families of American Elm victims

After a tragic double homicide Monday at the American Elm restaurant rocked the West Highland neighborhood, Denver restaurants and breweries are coming together to show support.

On Monday, May 1, Hops & Pie, 3920 Tennyson St., will host a silent auction and buffet-style dinner with more than 30 local businesses to raise funds for the families of the American Elm victims: Emerall Vaughn-Dahler and Ignacio “Nacho” Gutierrez Morales.

“The response has been really overwhelming and really powerful,” said Bob Reiter, who owns American Elm, which is located at 4132 W. 38th Ave. “For me and for us, there is something really tangible and important about feeling that love and support. This is such a devastating and terrible act, and you can get lost in how dark that is, and I think to have the support of our community, industry, family, friends and each other, at least connects us back to some of the joy and love we felt for Emerall and Nacho and that we feel for each other.”

Gutierrez Morales, 58, had worked for the restaurant as a prep cook since it opened in 2019. He is survived by three children, Cinthia, 36, Johnathan 32, and Alex, 18.

Vaughn-Dahler, 34, joined American Elm in June 2021 as a server and later became general manager. She is survived by her son, Michael, 12, and her husband, Andrew.

Police have not released any additional details, and the investigation is ongoing.

A GoFundMe campaign has been posted to aid the victim’s families, and as of Thursday morning, had raised $76,171 out of the $100,000 goal.

The “entrance fee” for the fundraiser at Hops & Pie next week is proof of a $50 donation to the GoFundMe at the door. Kids are free, and there will be live music from Jocelyn Skorka.

The buffet-style meal will include donated food from Hops & Pie, Smash & Grab Burgers, El Camino, Legacy Pie, Bakery Four, Cholon, Il Porcellino, Atomic Cowboy, El Chingon, Glo Noodle House, Fire on the Mountain and Jovanina’s Broken Italian.

Beer will be courtesy of: Our Mutual Friend, Westbound & Down, Station 26, Bierstadt, Call to Arms, Public Offering, Emporium, Cerebral, FlyteCo and Cohesion Brewing.Other distributors and contributors include Shamrock Foods, Elite Brands, Classic Wines, Ball Corporation and Novum Construction Group.

And silent auction items have been donated from Novum Construction Group, Post Oak BBQ, Small Batch Liquors, Monkey Fist Tattoo and many, many more.

“I want to reiterate how appreciative we are of all and how much love and support we feel for our partners, the community, and everyone who’s reached out in support, donated to the GoFundMe or just sent well wishes and love,” Reiter said. “This is an incredibly difficult time for all of us, and I don’t know how we would get through it without all the messages of love and support. And for all the effort that people have put into getting this fundraiser together so quickly, we are so grateful. It’s really amplified how connected and empathetic the hospitality industry here really is.”

American Elm remains closed, and Reiter declined to comment on any plans to reopen. He said he and his staff are still trying to process the tragic event, and the close-knit team is grieving in their own ways, whether that’s together or individually.

“Our focus is to raise money to help the families get through this short median term and try to relieve some of the burden, which to me, feels like all we can do,” Reiter said. “Our focus is helping and supporting the families first and foremost, and our staff and our team secondarily.”

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