Operator of Short-Term Rental That Saw Gunfire During Party Gives Up License

This Airbnb rental in Capitol Hill won't be renting anymore.
This Airbnb rental in Capitol Hill won't be renting anymore. Google Maps
Two and a half months after her Capitol Hill home was the scene of a large Halloween party that included gunfire, Airbnb host Shannon Baker has given up her short-term rental license.

On January 14, Baker and the Department of Excise and Licenses, which regulates short-term rentals, struck a deal which involves Baker giving up her license and agreeing to not apply for another one for at least a year.

A hearing had been scheduled for today, January 16, during which Baker would have been allowed to address allegations that she was operating a short-term rental at a place other than her primary residence and that her short-term rental was negatively impacting the neighborhood. Instead, Baker admitted to the two violations as part of the settlement with the city.

The investigation into Baker began after guests renting out her and her husband's Capitol Hill home threw a massive Halloween party on November 1, 2019, that resulted in gunshots and a visit by police. No one was seriously injured at the party, although one male guest did walk out of the residence with what police identified as an injury to his face. Police are still investigating the source of the gunfire.

While investigating the legitimacy of Baker's short-term rental, the Department of Excise and Licenses determined that the Bakers lived in Castle Rock, not Cap Hill.

According to an Airbnb spokesperson, the listings for the Bakers' Capitol Hill property, which includes a full house and the basement below it, are now inactive. Airbnb did not confirm whether it or the Bakers deactivated the listing. Neither Baker nor her lawyer immediately responded to a request for comment for this story.

The city is also working on a case against an Airbnb in Belcaro, which was allegedly the scene of a party on November 9, 2019, that also devolved into shots being fired, albeit outside the home.

In the past year, city officials have been cracking down on alleged violators of short-term rental rules. In March 2019, Excise and Licenses began sending affidavits to applicants and short-term rental operators that they suspected of lying about their primary residence. Since then, hundreds of people have given up their licenses or withdrawn their applications.

Excise and Licenses is proposing new rules that would give the city more tools for investigating alleged violators of short-term rental agreements, including more access to personal documents that identify someone's primary residence.

But some short-term rental operators question whether the city is being too heavy-handed in its attitude toward prospective hosts.

"I want to make sure that people are not talked out of going after this," Erin Ganser, a short-term rental operator and a member of Denver's Short Term Rental Advisory Committee, said at a January 14 committee meeting. "I think that there is often a vibe coming from the public saying, 'it feels like the city doesn’t want to give me a license.'"
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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.