September 27, 2021

Denver pushes to close Beta Nightclub for safety violations after spate of shootings

Denver authorities are trying to revoke a popular downtown nightclub’s licenses following an undercover police investigation this summer that revealed safety violations inside the club as well a series of nearby shootings over the past six months.

Beta Nightclub, 1909 Blake St., hired unlicensed security guards, failed to keep people from bringing weapons into the venue and failed to control the crowds inside its building, according to an administrative order issued by Denver Department of Excise and Licensing.

The department on Monday ordered the club’s owner to appear at an Oct. 18 hearing to prove to the city why regulators shouldn’t revoke its liquor and cabaret licenses. The club will remain open until the city issues a final order in the case or a settlement is reached.

The licensing decision comes after several violent incidents at the club and in the intersection in front of it, including a shooting earlier this month after bar closing that killed one and injured five. The city in the last 18 months has grappled with heightened levels of homicides and shootings not seen for decades.

Aaron Acker, attorney for Beta Nightclub owner Valentes Corleons, said Corleons denies that the criminal activity is connected to his club and says the city is targeting him with its investigation.

“What I’ve been told by my client is that there are a lot of problems on the street and that the people causing the problems aren’t coming from his clubs, there are other clubs in the area,” Acker said.

The Denver Police Department assigned a detective to investigate the nightclub on July 13 “as a result of several complaints and a recent increase of 911 calls for service to the establishment,” the order states. The detective was tasked with combing through several investigations and incidents connected to the club.

Officers responded to Beta on May 23 after a man was shot about 30 feet from its entrance as he left the nightclub, the administrative order states. While police investigated the shooting, they learned that the security company the club hired was not licensed in the city, nor were the company’s security guards.

On June 11, two undercover police officers entered the club posing as customers. Both officers were patted down for weapons, the administrative order states, but the guard conducting the searches failed to stop one of the officers even after touching the gun the officer had tucked into the back of her waistband. The undercover officer was allowed into the club with her weapon, the administrative order states.

Once inside the club, the officers were provided cocaine by a patron. The officers took pictures of the drug and as well as a sample. On a second undercover visit to the club, the officers were sold fake cocaine in the club’s basement, where there were no club staff or security working.

Off-duty police officers who worked at the club also provided videos of large brawls inside the nightclub, during which people threw bottles, trash cans and furniture. One off-duty officer said that it was common for such fights to happen, including between people from rival gangs, and that the club’s management appeared to do little to control the crowds.

Patrons in the club wore clothes signifying membership to various Denver gangs but management “have shown no interest in preventing the potentially violent individuals from entering the club,” the administrative order states.

Police data collected by The Denver Post shows that Beta Nightclub this year has the highest number of reported crimes connected to its address of all bars in Denver’s Union Station neighborhood. It has the 19th-highest number of crimes connected to any address in the neighborhood, following Union Station terminals, several apartment buildings and grocery stores.

Denver police have recorded at least four aggravated assaults and one robbery at the nightclub’s address. In comparison, the two bars on either side of Beta Nightclub — Seven Grand and 1UP Arcade Bar — have no crimes reported at their addresses.

At least four shootings have occurred in the 1900 block of Blake Street this year, injuring 10 people and killing one:

  • April 4: A man and a woman were injured in a shooting in the 1900 block of Blake Street
  • May 23: One man was injured in a shooting in front of Beta Nightclub as he left the club as it closed
  • July 11: Two were injured at the intersection of 19th and Blake streets in a shooting at approximately 1 a.m.
  • Aug. 22: Jean-Marquis Stewart, 22, was killed and five others were injured in a shooting at 19th and Blake streets as bars closed. Denver police spokesman Doug Schepman said Stewart was at Beta before he was killed. No arrests have been made.

Acker said he couldn’t comment on the specific crime statistics but said club leadership had been trying to work with the city to improve safety in the area. Corleons staffed several off-duty police officers at the club every night until the Denver Police Department ended the contract two weeks ago, Acker said.