Simply placing a Pride flag in one’s window does not an LGBTQ bar make, but it’s at least heartening to see the rainbows winding their way into more and more mainstream establishments.
For queer bars, Denverites often have to look a bit closer, as the city’s LGBTQ cultural scene is not always matched by the prominence or amount of our clubs. We lost promising spots such as Sir and seemingly stable venues like Pride and Swagger in recent months, so the remaining names are all the more important.
We’ve also seen a lot of spots hang on during unimaginable, pandemic-related challenges. Some, such as the Denver Eagle on West Colfax Avenue, even reopened after a six-year closure. In that spirit, here’s a quick roundup for Pride month and in advance of Denver PrideFest (June 25 and 26), including legacy bars and some new(er) names, so you don’t have to do all the work yourself.
Indisputably Denver’s largest and most important LGBTQ club, the current incarnation in what’s now the RiNo Art District has over the last 17 years made its name with national-quality drag performances, touring artists and raucous, themed parties. Besides nurturing Denver-based “RuPaul’s Drag Race” winners such as Yvie Oddly and the most recent season’s champ, Willow Pill, it’s got open mics and hip-hop nights (18 and up!) and three of the best dance floors and DJ setups in the city. The gold standard. 3500 Walnut St., 303-863-7326 or tracksdenver.com
Within walking distance of downtown Denver as well as Capitol Hill’s numerous venues and bars, X Bar is a strong magnet with its huge patio parties and palpable camaraderie. The one-story, dance-friendly space stays busy with karaoke, DJ nights and a wild weekend atmosphere, but Pride month will generate even bigger lines down the block. Get there early, or not, and be ready to sweat (especially if it’s at one of their undies or leather parties). Look up #partyyoncolfax on Instagram for some of the costumed revelers and event flyers, from brunches and sing-along nights to queer proms. 629 E. Colfax Ave., 303-832-2687 or xbardenver.com
Long a late-night stop-off on the bustling length of Broadway in the Baker neighborhood, Boyztown bills itself as Denver’s Hottest Male Revue (RIP the former Compound Basix nearby). And you know what? Most nights they’re not wrong, with limber, cut dancers, deft DJs, and a generally high-energy atmosphere that runs until last call. It’s the only solely-male strip club in that area (or the entire metro area, last I checked), so you may have to endure straight-girl bachelorette and birthday parties, even as the bar keeps it real with its loyal staff and clientele. 117 Broadway, 303-722-7373 or boyztowndenver.com
See also: The low-key Li’l Devils Lounge on South Broadway. It doesn’t identify itself as an explicitly gay bar, but it’s a popular hangout for older gay men occupying the former Barker Lounge space. facebook.com/lildevilslounge
Queer sports bars may seem niche but they’re most certainly not, which is why it’s strange that Denver only boasts of the sports-focused Tight End. Still, the City Park West bar — which opened last year in the gritty Streets Denver punk bar — offers excellent people-watching on its patio, playoff nights on big screens, trivia, drinking games, karaoke and more. As other guides are quick to point out, it’s just across a busy stretch of East Colfax Avenue from Blush & Blu, a lesbian, queer and trans-centric space with programming galore (see below). 1501 E. Colfax Ave. 303-861-9103 or tightendbar.com
Blush & Blu
This busy space has helped fill the gap of Denver’s long-closed Detour, a former lesbian bar, and developed some of the city’s best drag queens, poets, singer-songwriters and stand-up comics on its small stage (see also the Mercury Cafe). It’s socially conscious and has a solid menu, with the aforementioned, and nationally rare, focus on lesbian, queer and transgender clientele. Yes, there are tourists and curious pedestrians, given its proximity to cannabis dispensaries and Denver’s first Voodoo Doughnut location, but they’re welcome, too. It’s also great for coffee and chai, as it formerly hosted the LGBTQ space tHERe, which had a similar menu. 1526 E. Colfax Ave., 303-484-8548 or blushbludenver.com
Like Tracks Denver, Capitol Hill bar Charlie’s — part of a Country Western-themed chain with locations in Las Vegas, Phoenix and Chicago — predates Denver’s population and construction boom by decades, proudly holding court on East Colfax Avenue with indoor and outdoor events ranging from beer busts to drag shows, line-dancing lessons and sexy go-go boy performances. Cowboy hats and leather chaps are always welcome, but certainly not necessary, and the falafel-and-gyros menu can be surprisingly welcome after a night of themed cocktails and dancing. 900 E. Colfax Ave., 303-839-8890 or charliesdenver.com
Fusions Bar & Grill
This RiNo Art District watering hole is where you go when you want stir-fried noodles and serious drinks, including an estimable Mongolian grill menu and impressive focus on tropical cocktails (with lots more to come, owners say). It bravely opened during the pandemic and has sustained itself with a dog-friendly patio and incredible, evolving beer selection. A great stop-off, or destination in itself. 3053 Brighton Blvd., 303-862-7376 or fusionsdenver.com
Classic in look and feel, with gorgeous vintage signage and a cozy interior, the R&R is tucked along a vibrant stretch of East Colfax Avenue. Its owners have claimed it’s the city’s oldest gay bar, having opened in the 1950s and gone openly gay in the 1970s, according to Westword, with its instantly recognizable, rainbow-painted door. Think happy hours, darts and Broncos games. 4958 E. Colfax Ave. #1208, 303-320-9337 or yelp.com/biz/r-and-r-lounge-denver-denver (the bar does not have its own website).
Although it’s not an overtly bear bar — owners describe it as Denver’s queer, underground fetish bar — it’s a favorite of the bearded, frequently muscle-bound class of gay men who describes themselves as such (particularly in the absence of the late Denver Wrangler). Trade also helps fill a blank spot in that particular area’s Denver’s gay scene, with a perch along Santa Fe Drive and diverse programming that ranges from drag shows and DJ nights to leather nights and beer busts. 475 Santa Fe Drive, 720-627-5905 or facebook.com/tradedenver
Is Denver Sweet the equivalent of Minnesota Nice? In a way, maybe, but it’s also the city’s only overtly bear-bar and one of the metro area’s best rooftop spots, LGBTQ or otherwise. Tasty bar food and brunch, honeyed clientele and DJs mix for sunny afternoons and breezy nights on a pair of party floors at the former Funky Buddha space, which never to seemed to have found its niche until Denver Sweet took over in May 2019. The owners — both former DJs at the Wrangler — told Out Front Magazine that their goal is to make it a welcoming example of the larger bear-bar scene, which doesn’t exactly have a reputation of always being friendly toward women and trans people. Fortunately, they seem to be reaching that goal. 776 Lincoln St. 720-598-5648 or denversweet.com
The Triangle Bar
Just this week, Tasting Table named this stylish downtown spot as one of the nation’s best LGBTQ bars, having been open in its current incarnation since early 2018. The name stretches back to the 1970s when the slim brick building hosted a gay club called Triangle, and was a tryout spot for various, unsuccessful bars and craft restaurants after the original Triangle closed in the early 2000s. Its resurrection has brought back queer stand-up, big-name drag queens, “Real Housewives”-themed brunches and a safe LGBTQ space to a central and sleek location. 2036 N. Broadway, 303-658-0913 or thetriangledenver.com
Hamburger Mary’s Denver
Long a food-and-drinks destination, the Denver outlet of this North American chain also offers reliably colorful programming and a comfy atmosphere for casual stop-ins and parties, with lots of gender diversity (and cis-het allies) in addition to LGBTQ patrons. Having moved west on 17th Avenue awhile back to a smaller, more handsome space, it’s often packed with wild partiers on drag-queen and other show nights. And yet, it’s always friendly and accessible. 1136 E. 17th Ave., 303-993-5812 or milehighmarys.com
Barely a year old, Lucid is another upstart that’s managed to hold on through nightmarish challenges for the service industry. It’s a welcome addition to the scene, with a neon-spiked profile amid the usual programming (trivia, lip-sync battles, drag shows, etc.). It also offers curios such as speed dating, and a notable lineup of racially diverse performers that are often hard to find at other LGBTQ bars (Latinx Couture? Yes, please). Look for this “disco bar” above Kyu Ramen, as it’s a second-story space. 600 E. Colfax Ave., no phone number is available. luciddenver.com
Like Lucid, #Vybe features a bit more diversity than many gay bars, with drag queens of color and top touring queens like Adore Delano swinging through regularly, in addition to stand-up comedy, game nights, Denver Broncos parties (the cheerleaders even stopped in for a show recently) and lots more. It’s arguably the only overtly LGBTQ spot in the ritzy, gallery-heavy Golden Triangle neighborhood, although it lines the same public-transportation corridor as Denver Sweet, Li’l Devils, Boyztown and others. 1027 N. Broadway, 720-573-8886 or 303vybe.com
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