When the owners of iconic jazz club El Chapultepec decided to close the business for good in December, rumors spread about the future of the legendary spot: Would the building be torn down and replaced with a condo complex? Could someone buy the El Chapultepec name and keep the club going? Or would anyone have the moxie to take over the space and create something new?
The family of Jerry Krantz, who'd run the Pec for decades, decided not to sell the business and just shut it down. But they didn't own its home — Evan Makovsky, co-owner of Shames Makovsky Realty Company, bought the building at 1962 Market Street after Krantz died, leasing it back to his family — and since the structure is in a historic district, it isn’t going anywhere (though there's plenty of construction next door at the future home of Dierks Bentley's Whiskey Row).
Instead, the space will be taken over by Valentes Corleons and his team, who operate the current iteration of the former EDM club Beta — the Beta Event Center, just a block away at 1909 Blake Street. They plan to put a new venue inside the old El Chapultepec space. It will be named Cantina, after the sign on the outside of the building.
This is Corleons’s latest move in his bid to become the dominant nightclub entrepreneur downtown, taking on clubs like Summit and the Marquis Theater, and even aspiring to compete with AEG and Live Nation, the region's biggest promoters.
According to Albert Powell, a former semi-pro basketball player who's Corleons's general manager and has worked at hip-hop clubs Dorchester, Purple Martini and Nativ, Corleons has a passion for preserving Denver music history. That’s why he invested in Beta when founders Brad Roulier and Mike McCray rebooted that electronic-music club as Beta 2.0. Corleons eventually purchased the club outright when they decided to sell and kept the Beta name, not wanting to see one of the country's best clubs shutter for good.
Corleons's love of local music history also explains why the team is taking over the historic jazz spot, Powell says.
El Chapultepec, which opened right after Prohibition ended, was a landmark in Denver’s jazz scene for decades. The bar shut down in December, not long after the state went into Level Red COVID-19 restrictions. But that wasn't the only reason El Chapultepec ended its long run.
“I want to make sure we're not going to be too quick to point the finger at COVID and our [government] shutdowns for being the reason for this closure,” El Chapultapec co-owner Anna Diaz said at a December 8 press conference, where the Kranz family discussed the end of the club. “Of course, the closure played a part in it. Undoubtedly, that makes an impact in our decision, but there are so many things that led to this choice."
Rapid growth, safety issues and annoying Rockies fans all contributed to the decision. “Jazz musicians and blues musicians, they shouldn't have to time their sets around the baseball innings and when the crowd is going to get out and be wild," she added. "They should be able to play their music, and the crowd [should] just be there to enjoy them. And that's been really difficult to manage, and we've been doing it a long time.”
But Powell sees potential for both Cantina and Beta in the traffic to and from Rockies games, as well as the crowds that will be drawn to the massive McGregor Square development set to open later this month right by Coors Field.
Powell and Chris Vitale, who has two decades of experience in the club business in Denver and Los Angeles, will be managing both Beta and Cantina. El Chapultepec's replacement will continue to offer some jazz, Powell promises, along with music from other genres.
Corleons and his team are currently up to their necks in renovations and not quite ready to show off their work, but Powell says what’s coming will be spectacular, honoring the past while offering the city something new.
“It will be nice,” he concludes.
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