Beta nightclub has been closed indefinitely by the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment for violating public-health orders related to COVID-19. And despite posts on owner Valentes Corleons's Facebook page claiming that the club at 1909 Blake Street will be reopening as the Black Lives Matter Nightclub, his venue will not be taking on that new moniker...if it reopens at all.
Corleons, who already owned Dorchester and Purple Martini before he acquired Beta 2.0 last year, complains that Denver has been pestering him and his clubs because neighbors and the city don't like the fact that they draw black customers. "I’ve been fighting with them for three years," he says. "They don’t like my crowd. For three years, I’ve been suffering. They’ve been trying to revoke my license. 'If you don’t change your crowd, change your music, have more security, have pat-downs....' I’ve tried everything."
But city officials say that Beta ignored warnings that it was violating public-health ordinances.
"The Denver Department of Public Health and Environment received thirteen complaints about Beta nightclub over the past two weeks," says Ann Cecchine-Williams, deputy director of the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment. "We investigated those complaints and, in total, issued two orders to comply and two general violations to the venue. Beta did not comply and was eventually closed for business by the department. Infractions include operating above capacity, guests and employees not observing social distancing, and guests and employees not wearing face coverings."
Corleons acknowledges that customers didn't comply with some rules, but he insists that he was doing his best. He had upwards of twenty security guards at Beta, he says. He had limited entrance at the club, was taking temperatures at the door, and ensuring that customers had hand sanitizer and masks — though after people walked into Beta, they sometimes took off masks and ignored social distancing guidelines.
"To be honest, I've not seen one person using sanitizer in the club," he says. "They take them to go."
Having heard stories of workers at other businesses being shot for asking customers to wear masks, he explains that he's wary about kicking people out for failure to wear face coverings. If city officials want to impose strict regulations, he adds, they need to help with enforcement.
"I spent thousands of dollars on everything they want: sanitizer, temperature taking," he complains. "A lot of people don't believe in masks. We tell them, 'Please, put it on,' and they want to fight and start giving us the finger. It’s not that easy. People are angry and drunk. They don’t want to follow the rules."
He says that while other downtown businesses aren't following the rules, either, they're not being punished. (Jay Bianchi's Sancho's Broken Arrow was recently shut down by the city over public health orders, however.) Corleons suggests that Beta is being targeted because of racism.
The following post recently appeared on his Facebook page:
If you are Racist and you don't like black people and you don't think a black Lives matter ... stay the fuck away from me and don't fucking come to Beta nightclub I don't need your Business. [thumbs down emoji] stop calling the city ,stop making lies and fake videos .Black people deserve to have fun like anyone else.and they are not a harm to Anyone .and yes I love every one of them very much [prayer hands emoji] and I wouldn't be where I am today without them . Beta nightclub wasn't giving to me for a free. I paid millions and millions for it . Now .. I am not going to stop playing hip hop music (also called a rap music) am not going to stop playing Latin music .. I am the owner I do what the fuck I want ,you can't Control me ,I don't care who you are ... Again and again, black Lives matter ,I feel your pain ,I see you, I will stand with all of you, and I know you stand with me .power to the people."
Another post from his account:
I finally found a new name for my night club Black Lives Matter Nightclub.
Corleons denies writing the posts, which have both been deleted. He says his employees are the ones who've been making a stink on his social media page.
"I don’t go on Facebook or social media at all," Corleons explains. "I hang out with family a lot. I have a couple, three guys. I trust them. They understand the American mentality. Somehow they’re trying to fight back and trying to get our voice out there. Maybe somebody else can do it professionally."
The club has had a rocky couple of years. In late 2018, 33-year-old Jacob Morton died of an overdose outside of Beta. In early 2019, the club shut down and went on the market, but by spring, then-owner Brad Roulier announced that he had failed to sell it and would be rebooting it as Beta 2.0., complete with an outdoor swimming pool. The remodeled space was supposed to be open by last summer, but got stuck in construction and permitting delays. A sneak peak set for September 28 had to be put off because of more permitting problems. And when Beta 2.0 finally launched, crowds were slim and the pool was never installed.
After Beta 2.0 started throwing hip-hop nights and Corleons took full ownership of the business, some members of the EDM community blasted him for turning an electronic music hub into a hip-hop club, and suggested that he engaged in unethical labor practices.
"There are people who think I’m a monster, that I turned the whole club into hip-hop," he says. He denies that, pointing out, "I’m doing country. I'm doing EDM. It’s one of the best venues in Denver."
But he's not going to be able to hold on to that venue for long. Even though they're dark, he's spending more than $200,000 a month on his clubs, he says.
"The neighbors, the city don’t want it there," he says of Beta. "I want to sell it. I can’t just stop. I have to pay my rent. I have a fifteen-year lease. All my places are for sale...I’m worn out. You can only fight so much."
While he waits for a buyer, he hopes to reopen all of his clubs, and Purple Martini is already back in business on a limited level. But the city isn't making it easy, he complains.
"We’ve been staying home for three months," he says. "I don’t know the plan. I feel like the government has no plan. We don’t know what’s going on. I can’t stay at home day and night. We need to work. We’re not built to just stay at home. Those rules are impossible to enforce."