By last year, the Regency Hotel had fallen a long way from the days when it served as Elvis's crash pad. Under Art Cormier, the former owner of Smiley's Laundromat, the once-elegant hotel had turned into a layover for day laborers and a major nightspot for Mexican immigrants -- legal and otherwise. Every weekend, Los Caporales, the nightclub in the aging hotel's grand ballroom, would be packed with thousands of people partying. Fights broke out, drugs were dealt, the devil is rumored to have appeared in several forms, and a good time was had by all -- except the neighbors, who called in complaints to the cops, their city council representative, anyone they could think of.
Finally, Cormier -- who'd bought the place for a reported $4.6 million in 1999 -- sold it to Robert Salazar for $6.4 million last October. And now the building is back in business as The Regency: Auraria's Student Housing Community, a dorm-like operation that opened to its first tenants this month ("What Class!," September 1).
But Cormier's not down and out of the hotel business altogether. He's now leasing the Best Western Hotel at 200 West 48th Avenue and has asked the city for a dance and cabaret license.
That worries Cormier's new neighbors in Sunnyside and Globeville, who fear that their neighborhood will soon face a business where 911 is on speed dial and the fire and police departments are regular visitors.
"The neighborhood is really concerned because of the way that he managed the dance cabaret at the Regency, but in order to challenge the liquor license, we have to have proof that he is a criminal or had bad moral character," says a local activist who wants to remain anonymous for fear of retribution. "And we're not saying that he's immoral or criminal. He could go to church every Sunday and be a nice person, but he apparently has some issues with management. His reputation kind of preceded him.
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"In order to have a cabaret license, the neighborhood has to agree that they want one," she adds. "And we don't think we want one or need one. We have the delightful Grizzly Rose up the block. We have plenty of them."
Cormier says people -- especially Westword -- have him all wrong. Although several reporters here experienced the crush at Los Caporales and hellacious elevator rides up through the Regency's tower, their stories were "full of lies," Cormier insists. "But I just don't have time to go around correcting every reporter."
But while Cormier explains that the Regency was in fine shape during his watch and that Los Caporales was not the violation magnet that people claimed it was, he also says he's not planning to resurrect his nightclub empire at the Best Western. "All we're trying to do with that location is just do weddings and business meetings," he says. "They had the improper license before we acquired the property."
The hearing on his license application is October 28. The neighbors say they'll be ready.