Crime

Fatal New Year's Shooting Leaves Two Dead, Two Wounded at Cabin in LoDo

A fatal shooting inside the Cabin Tap House in the early morning hours of New Year's Day left two dead and two wounded.

"There's two still laying dead on the floor, with blood everywhere," says Valentes Corleons, the owner of the Cabin, which opened late last year at 1919 Blake Street. Corleons, whose legal name is Hussam Kayali, also owns Beta Event Center, the LoDo nightclub next door at 1909 Blake; Corleons was at Beta at the time of the shooting.

"The only information we have at this early point is the call came in at 1:14 a.m.," says Kurt Barnes, a spokesperson for the Denver Police Department. "We had multiple people shot in the 1900 block of Blake Street. Two people were declared deceased on scene, an adult male and an adult female. Two adult males were transported to local hospitals with an unknown condition at this time. And this investigation is continuing."

"The witnesses say he's a white guy with glasses. He had [the gun] under his shirt. He was wearing a jacket. And takes [the gun] and starts shooting right and left," says Corleons. "I'm shocked. This was like a tragedy. The people who got shot didn't even know him."

Corleons notes that Cabin staff don't allow guns or knives in the club, so he's unsure how the shooter got the weapon.

A man who was at Cabin last night and asked to remain anonymous says he wasn't searched when he entered. According to him, a fight took place just before there were gunshots.

That fight was different from one seen in a series of videos posted to Instagram around midnight by a Cabin patron. In these, about a half-dozen men are seen punching and kicking a person not in view of the camera. The video series ends with a shot of one of the bottle-service employees performing chest compressions on a person lying on the floor.

The shooting comes at a time when the City of Denver is trying to shut down Beta based on law and code violations, such as failing to post occupancy limits and allowing drinking after hours. The executive director of the Department of Excise and Licenses will rule soon on whether Beta will lose its liquor and cabaret licenses, in accordance with a hearing officer's recommendation issued in December.

The hearing officer based his decision in large part on the fact that Corleons introduced himself to a police officer as a "made man" in the Mafia, which Corleons says wasn't meant as a threat. But a Denver police officer also alleges that Corleons offered a $10,000 bribe to make the city's investigation of Beta go away, an allegation that Corleons denies.
click to enlarge Valentes Corleons says he was inside Beta, his club next door to the Cabin, at the time of the shooting. - EVAN SEMÓN
Valentes Corleons says he was inside Beta, his club next door to the Cabin, at the time of the shooting.
Evan Semón
Beyond the code violations, the city is also concerned about increased violence in the 1900 block of Blake Street over the spring and summer of 2021; law enforcement officials suggest that the source of much of the trouble is Beta, which lets people affiliated with gangs into the club, where they then end up getting in fights. An undercover police detective who went into Beta in June as part of the city's investigation was able to enter the club with a handgun in her waistband, despite being patted down by staff at the entrance.

In addition to the Excise and Licenses action, Denver city attorneys are working to shut down Beta as a public nuisance. The next Denver County Court hearing in that case is slated for January 13. Owing to the public-nuisance filing, the Denver Police Department no longer provides off-duty police officers at Corleons's venues.

"They're going to use this big time. They're going to say, 'See, we've been telling you,'" Corleons predicts. "It's something that's not my fault. I don't know why it keeps happening."

Corleons bought the building that now houses the Cabin — and had been home to Falling Rock Tap House for 24 years — in July for $2.5 million. He says that he was in the process of selling the Cabin and had a contract to complete the sale this month, adding that he may sell his other venues, such as Beta, and move to Sicily, where he says he was born.

Concludes Corleons: "My mom is like, 'Just leave ’em. Buy an airplane ticket, pack your stuff and leave ’em.'"