Crime

Valentes Corleons, Beta Landlord Awaiting Final Resolution in Public-Nuisance Case

Beta was a legendary club with an international reputation.
Beta was a legendary club with an international reputation. Evan Semon
After a six-month administrative and legal battle between Beta Event Center and the City of Denver, the end is near.

Attorneys representing the city and the now-closed nightclub at 1909 Blake Street concludef a public-nuisance case today, after a hearing before Denver County Court Judge Beth Faragher ran over a full day of testimony on February 17.

The final ruling, which Faragher is expected to issue by March 22, will determine whether the landlord of the building that's housed Beta for over a decade, Colman Kahn, will be able to sell it without too much fuss. Kahn has said he's eager to sell the building for the right price, but it will be far less valuable if it's declared a public nuisance and can't qualify for a liquor license for three years. While Faragher has concluded there's enough evidence to deem the property a public nuisance, the city has proposed an abatement plan that would give the city the right to screen any potential buyers of the property.

"To my mind, downtown Denver, LoDo, will not change within three years. Gang culture, firearms won’t change in the next three years. That is an ongoing issue to be discussed and abated in the long term. I don’t see the 1900 block of Blake changing significantly during my career," Ryan McGinty, the supervisor of the Denver Police Department's nuisance abatement unit, testified during the February 17 hearing. The  DPD conducted an investigation of Beta last summer; undercover cops visited on two Friday nights in June, when they scored what they believed to be cocaine from patrons. In one instance, the cocaine turned out to be fake.

The abatement plan has not yet been finalized; and both sides can still weigh in. The city wants to have the right to block a potential sale to any associates of Beta's operator, Valentes Corleons, whose legal name is Hussam Kayali. He's currently unable to operate a nightclub at the address because the Department of Excise and Licenses pulled Beta's liquor license on January 5, citing law and code violations.

At the public-nuisance hearing on February 17, Chris Gaddis of the Denver City Attorney's Office called witnesses who have frequently testified in relation to Beta, including Detective Derrick Keeton and Officer Adam Glasby, two DPD staffers who worked off-duty at Beta last summer.

"It was known as a gang bar and a place where you could go to get drugs," Keeton testified.

Beta attorney Harvey Steinberg described the city's case against Corleons and Beta as a character assassination. "There’s no question in my mind that my client is being targeted," he said. "They don’t like my client, and that’s all this case is about."
click to enlarge Valentes Corleons inside Beta. - EVAN SEMON
Valentes Corleons inside Beta.
Evan Semon
The last few months have marked a swift downfall for Corleons, once a major force in Denver nightlife but currently without any open venues. He bought the building next to Beta for $2.5 million last summer and transformed Falling Rock Tap House, its former tenant, into Cabin Tap House. But Cabin was the scene of a double homicide early on New Year's Day, apparently precipitated by a fight among patrons. The Denver Department of Excise and Licenses immediately suspended the venue's liquor license following that shooting. Corleons sold Cabin on January 14 to R and R LLC, which includes Walid Maaliki of Maaliki Motors as a member, according to BusinessDen.

Chris Black, who owned Falling Rock, turned out to still hold the liquor license for the venue despite no longer being associated with the space; he voluntarily surrendered the license to the city on January 18.

Corleons had also planned to turn the former home of El Chapultepec, at 1962 Market Street, into a new venue named Cantina, but he recently returned the keys of that building to its landlord, Shames Makovsky real estate, which bought it after longtime El Chapultepec owner Jerry Krantz died a decade ago. It was then leased to Krantz's family so that they could keep the club going, but his daughters announced that they were shutting down the business in December 2020.

According to Corleons, initially he was going to simply accept his losses and move on. "But after I see how much the City of Denver hates me, I'm going to sue the city and the Denver police for all the lies and how dirty they did me and my crowd, who are like family to me," he says.

The final issue to be settled in the city's public-nuisance abatement plan is whether Denver will allow anyone who wants to allow a nightclub at 1909 Blake to buy the building. Even if the judge accepts the plan, any new tenant would still need to apply and be granted a liquor license by the city.

"I think we're open as a neighborhood organization to nightclubs as long as they're run well," testified Don Ku, chair of the Good Neighbor Committee for the LoDo Neighborhood Organization. "We'll craft some conditions and a good neighbor agreement."

The building has held a nightclub since the 1990s, when Kahn began renting it after he realized he could make more money renting the structure near Coors Field than he could using it for his own commercial carpet business. It held a couple of other clubs before Beta opened there, and quickly gained an international reputation as a haven for EDM.

Under Corleons, who took over the twelve-year-old Beta in March 2020, it gained another reputation entirely.

This story has been updated to reflect the deadline for the judge's decision.
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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.