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No, Tony Soprano Didn't Try to Burn Down Beta

The damage at Beta.
The damage at Beta. Courtesy Valentes Corleons
While a fire broke out at Beta Event Center early on January 17, Tony Soprano was not responsible for the blaze.

Instead, a "homeless-caused fire" likely spread to a shed on the southwest patio of the building at 1909 Blake Street, according to the Denver Fire Department. "It didn't have anything to do with the operations," says Greg Pixley, a spokesperson for the DFD. "They think it was a campfire that was close to the shed."

The fire was reported about 7:47 a.m. on January 17,  according to Pixley. No one was injured, although the fire caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, according to Valentes Corleons (legal name Hussam Kayali), who owns the nightclub but not the building that houses Beta.

"It's a sad day for Beta," Corleons says. "Good thing I have an alarm or the whole thing would have burned down."

Beta, once a world-renowned nightclub, lost its liquor license on January 5 after a lengthy administrative process stemming from the city's show-cause order filed last August over alleged law and code violations. The club is also battling the city's attempts to essentially freeze any activity on the nightclub's grounds for three years through a public-nuisance filing. A Denver County Court hearing on that matter is slated for January 21.
Beta has been closed for two weeks. - EVAN SEMON
Beta has been closed for two weeks.
Evan Semon
After the Beta Event Center Facebook page posted news of the fire on January 17, many commenters suggested that the blaze could have been a poor attempt at imitating a classic Mafia technique of burning down a business and making it appear as an accident in order to collect on an insurance claim. Some even mentioned the episode of The Sopranos when Tony Soprano ordered a henchman to burn down a restaurant owned by his friend, Artie Bucco, so that Bucco could collect insurance money.

Corleons has claimed to be a "made man" in the Sicilian Mafia, and the hearing judge cited that when he recommended that Beta lose its liquor license.

But the fire appears connected to the other challenges Beta has been dealing with. "I do get four to seven break-ins a month," Corleons says, noting that sometimes people are trying to steal liquor from the club. The person who likely caused this fire also appears to have broken the front doors of Beta and the neighboring Cabin Tap House, he adds.

Later today, January 18, Corleons's team will be back before the city at another administrative hearing, defending the right of Cabin to retain a liquor license. The Department of Excise and Licenses temporarily suspended Cabin's liquor license on January 1, after a fatal shooting left two dead inside the club. Corleons bought the building at 1919 Blake Street that is home to Cabin last summer; although he still owns the building at 1919 Blake Street, he sold the club to Thomas Schaefer late last year.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.