Denver’s Bar Bar, sometimes known officially as Carioca Café, is one of a lost breed of dark, divey bars in a city where a massive influx of new residents has meant the kind of massive redevelopment that tends to push places like Bar Bar to the edge. The more common name for the space, Bar Bar, comes from the neon sign above the front door that fittingly reads “Bar” on one said and “Bar” on the other. Hidden behind the fairly nondescript entry is the fact that the building was erected in 1890, serving as a saloon and brothel according to the Denver dive bar’s web site. After a brief pre-Prohibition history that included a citation for having the audacity to serve a woman a beer in 1903, rumors have it that the space served as a speakeasy before reopening upon Prohibition’s repeal.
Today, Carioca Café is one of the last bastions of punk shows in Denver, a commitment to live music that includes metal shows as well, all of them packed into a very small space making for very intimate (loud) concert settings. Bar Bar is, of course, cash only and has the interior décor to match that distinction, stationary stools lining a scuffed and faded wooden bar atop a chipped floor. The ledge behind the bar serves as a museum and/or mausoleum to a host of small sculptures, beer signs and the occasional women’s undergarment. The space is dimly lit, covered in stickers, extremely affordable and everything the city of Denver needs as it slowly loses some of its well-earned authenticity.