Denver Government

Nightclub Operator Valentes Corleons Running for Denver Mayor

Valentes Corleons is running for mayor.
Valentes Corleons is running for mayor. Evan Semon
With the term-limited Michael Hancock on his way out, the 2023 race to become Denver's next chief executive has already attracted twelve official candidates. But the thirteenth to announce he's running for mayor could be the most unusual candidate yet: Nightclub operator Valentes Corleons says he'll register to run within the next week or two.

"I'm a man of my community, and I want to stand here for the people and make Denver a better place," says Corleons, whose legal name is Hussam Kayali. "I want to make a change in Denver. I want to protect all businesses. I want our voice to be heard."

Corleons is best known in Denver for operating the once world-famous Beta Event Center at 1909 Blake Street from the end of 2019 into 2021. Under his ownership, the City of Denver accused Beta of law and code violations, some of which were identified by undercover Denver cops sent to investigate Beta in the summer of 2021. The Denver Department of Excise and Licenses revoked Beta's liquor license this January, and then a Denver County Court judge declared Beta a public nuisance. The club has been closed since the start of the year.

So, too, has Cabin Tap House at 1919 Blake Street, the former home of Falling Rock. Corleons was operating the place on New Year's when a celebration devolved into a shooting that left two dead. The City of Denver ordered the immediate closure of the venue.

Corleons remains involved in nightclub promotion in Denver — albeit without his own clubs — and says that his business battles with the City of Denver are part of why he's running for mayor.

"What happened to me, I don't want it to happen to any business owner," says Corleons. "Any time there's a shooting outside somewhere, they blame it on the business owner."

Corleons has some ideas for how to increase safety in LoDo.

"First thing, we need to change the hours of the nightclubs and the bars until 4 or 6 a.m., so people don't leave all at the same time at 2 a.m.," Corleons says. Under existing state law, Denver could extend the hours at certain venues to 4 a.m. by using a common consumption area framework, as Glendale has done.

Corleons also thinks the city should have more cops patrolling the streets of downtown's entertainment district. "We need to have more cops. We need to have more patrol," Corleons says. "People are bored and depressed. They need to go somewhere to have fun."

As mayor, Corleons says, he'd tackle the issue of homelessness, too.

"I got to do something about homeless. They cannot be breaking into businesses and running around everywhere," he says. "Denver is not even safe anymore. Businesses are suffering. I want to do something about the rental market to help people afford their rents."

Corleons is working with his attorney, Aaron Acker of Springer and Steinberg, on setting up his campaign.

"One of the things that Valentes and I were talking about was the accessibility of our elected officials for the small businesses," Acker says. "Part of the problem is you really don't have somebody who is willing to sit down with you. We were talking about trying to create some sort of transparency and accountability that small-business owners and the citizens of Denver can have in trying to voice their concerns."

Corleons is optimistic about Denver's future under the right leadership.

"It's a beautiful city, beautiful people," he says. "It just needs the right leaders. And we don't have leaders at all. The mayor, the governor, the [police] chief, just none of them do anything for us. I feel like people in Denver are dying. And you know, they're suffering and they don't know what to do. I think if we have the right leader and reopen everything back up and build, we'll have more tourists and more businesses."

Aside from Corleons, other noteworthy Denver mayoral candidates include Democratic state legislator Leslie Herod, former Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO Kelly Brough, current Denver City Council member Debbie Ortega, environmental activist Ean Tafoya and criminal-justice reform activist Terrance Roberts.

The municipal election, in which Denver residents will vote not just for mayor, but for all Denver City Council seats as well as auditor and clerk and recorder, along with a handful of ballot measures, is set for the first Tuesday in April 2023, with run-offs in June.
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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.