"My American dream — dreaming all my life to bring beautiful venues to Denver — it's over," says Valentes Corleons, who until recently was the operator of Beta Event Center and Cabin Tap House, two clubs in the 1900 block of Blake Street.
Corleons, whose legal name is Hussam Kayali, is now effectively out of the nightlife business in Denver. Beta no longer has a liquor license, and Corleons says he will get out of his lease for the venue as soon as the longtime landlord of 1909 Blake, Colman Kahn, sells the property. Corleons has already sold the Cabin Tap House building at 1919 Blake that he bought last summer for $2.5 million.
And finally, Corleons, who had planned to turn the former El Chapultepec jazz club at 1962 Market Street into a new venue named Cantina, has returned the keys of the 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.
"That's the end right now," Corleons says of giving up his club empire. "The city thinks I'm a bad guy, and they hate me so much. It breaks my heart that they never got to know me and listen to what I've been through, see my side. They never treated me as a business guy."
"I'm sincerely sorry to the neighborhood and people that think I did a bad job with the club," he says of Beta, a once-legendary club he took over in 2020. "I never tried to hurt anybody. I was just trying to live the dream. It's not easy to run a nightclub with three floors."
The Denver Department of Excise and Licenses
pulled Beta's liquor license on January 5 because of law and code violations. And while the City Attorney's Office had also been pursuing a public-nuisance order that could have potentially prevented the sale of Beta for up to three years, Judge Beth Faragher of the Denver County Court
has entered an order in that case allowing Kahn, the landlord, to show prospective buyers around the property for a possible sale.
Beta was a legendary club with an international reputation.
Excise and Licenses had also ordered the temporary suspension of Cabin's liquor license on January 1, following a fatal shooting that left two dead at the club in the early-morning hours of New Year's Day. By that point, Corleons had already begun leasing the venue to Thomas Schaefer. And on January 14, Corleons sold the building housing Cabin — which had been home to Falling Rock Tap House for 24 years — to R and R LLC, which includes Walid Maaliki of Maaliki Motors as a member, according to BusinessDen
. Chris Black, who'd owned Falling Rock, still held 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. As a result, any occupant of 1919 Blake will have to apply for a new liquor license.
Corleons had taken over the lease for the El Chapultepec space in early 2021, and undertook an extensive renovation project of the building. But the inspections and permitting process with the City of Denver was taking a particularly long time for Cantina.
"I put in $771,000 into El Chapultepec, and it went down the drain. I did all the work, and the city didn't release my permit," says Corleons.
El Chapultepec closed for good in December 2020.
Now Corleons says he's done with the space. A representative for Shames Makovsky confirmed that the building is not currently under a lease, but declined to answer any other questions.
Corleons also got hit with a lawsuit on January 19 filed by Brad Roulier and Mike McCray, the former co-owners of Beta who brought Corleons on board in 2019 with the hopes of partnering with him, only to sell the club to him in its entirety in March 2020. Roulier and McCray allege that Corleons owes them at least $500,000. Corleons, however, says that he's struck an agreement with Roulier and McCray that they dismiss the lawsuit in exchange for having access to the expensive equipment inside the club, including the sound system and laser projectors.
Reflecting on his fast rise and fall in the Denver nightclub scene, which included a failed attempt at operating Dorchester Social before the venue had its liquor license taken by the City of Denver, Corleons says that city officials gave him zero respect from the start.
"The vice cops yelled at me. They think I'm a kid. They have no respect for me since day one. The reason I overreacted when everyone came for an inspection was because the way they yelled at me and treated me like a criminal," Corleons says, referencing the time he told a cop inspecting Beta that he was a "made man" in La Cosa Nostra — another name for the Sicilian Mafia. Corleons contends that this wasn't meant as a threat and that he was just introducing himself after the cop told Corleons that he was a black belt in jiu-jitsu, an assertion the cop denies.
Corleons also says that the late-night violence problems in LoDo, such as shootings, will continue long after he's left the Denver nightclub scene.
"I guarantee you nobody can run the club better than me. I run it perfectly. There's shootings everywhere. And Denver will realize that closing Beta is not going to solve anything," Corleons insists.
Neither will criticizing his appearance. "People say I should be in jail because of my hair," he says, referring to his major mohawk. "I would like to see one person in America when they turn 54 that looks better than me. There's not one person in America who is 54 who looks better than me."
Corleons says he plans to head to Beirut, where he says his father lives; he doesn't want to spend the rest of his life fighting the City of Denver.
"I will never forget until the day I die how some people in Colorado treated me," he concludes.