Denver, Beta Nightclub Duke It Out in Administrative Hearing

Beta remains open.
Beta remains open. Evan Semón
The City of Denver and Beta Event Center, a nightclub at 1909 Blake Street, faced off yesterday at a Denver Department of Excise and Licenses Show Cause hearing to determine whether the venue at 1906 Blake Street should be able to keep its liquor license and stay in business.

"The city is going to use whatever they can possible to bury this club," said Aaron Acker, attorney for Beta nightclub and its owner, Valentes Corleons (legal name Hussam Kayali), during an eight-hour hearing on November 17 that will spill over to today. The department had filed the Show Cause order in August, citing alleged law and code violations at the nightclub, including employing unlicensed security guards and drug dealing by patrons. The hearing had been set for October, but was postponed because of an administrative error.

The first day of the rescheduled hearing featured dueling arguments by Acker and colleague Matthew Giacomini, as well as Katie Conner and Emily Residorph with the Denver City Attorney's Office. Federico Alvarez, a former Denver District Court judge, is serving as the administrative officer for the hearing, which is being conducted over Microsoft Teams.

During the first day, Acker called the city's case an attempted "character assassination of Mr. Kayali" and argued that "none of these violations alone are that big of a deal."

Denver's attorneys called numerous witnesses (and even tried to introduce a Westword cover story into evidence); they testified about everything from Corleons being generally lax in running operations to allowing gang members to frequent the club.

"There were times when [gang members] would be arguing, fighting other rival gangs, giving staff a hard time, giving police a hard time — our other off-duties that were working there. Usually the individuals that would have tattoos, the attire, were the ones that were causing these issues," Detective Derrick Keeton, who worked off-duty at Beta over the summer, testified. "Every time that I thought it would be a safety issue, I would say something." But those calls to ramp up security protocol typically went unheeded by Beta staff, according to Keeton.
click to enlarge Valentes Corleons inside Beta. - EVAN SEMÓN
Valentes Corleons inside Beta.
Evan Semón
City attorneys also called other Denver Police Department witnesses to highlight how Corleons has claimed ties to the Sicilian Mafia.

"He says that he’s a made man," Chris Jones, a lieutenant with the Denver Police Department, said, describing an interaction he had with Corleons during an inspection he performed at Beta over the summer. "I said, 'What is that supposed to mean?' He said, 'You’ll find out what that means.' I said, 'Is that a threat?' He said, 'You’ll find out what that means.'"

Other DPD officers reported having similar conversations with Corleons.

"Mr. Kayali informed me that he was part of La Cosa Nostra, so I asked him what that was. And he stated it was the Mafia out of Sicily. I really didn't understand why he would bring that up to me. So I asked him, 'Why would you tell me something like that? I’m a law enforcement officer,'" recalled Daniel O'Bannon, a Denver police detective, regarding another summer visit to Beta.

Acker and Giacomini will call their witnesses during the second portion of the hearing today. They'll also get a chance to cross-examine Keeton, whose testimony ran up to the end of the November 17 hearing at 7 p.m.

Seemingly not realizing that his mic was unmuted on the virtual meeting platform, Acker promised a tough cross-examination: "There’s so much to eat him up on," he said to his colleague as Keeton wrapped up his testimony.

The City of Denver is also trying to shut down Beta nightclub on another front: Lawyers for the city filed a public-nuisance complaint back in mid-September, with an attached motion for a temporary restraining order. Although Judge Beth Faragher granted that, Acker filed a motion to vacate the temporary restraining order on October 11, so Beta never shut down. On November 12, Faragher held a hearing at the Denver County Court to adjudicate the competing claims. After over an hour of witness testimony, the discovery of a filing error by the city led to Faragher ordering that the hearing be postponed; it will start over on January 13.
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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.