It will likely come as no shock that people have flocked to Denver over the past few decades, putting some strain on the city’s dive bars as rent and redeveloped neighborhoods nudge out more established businesses. But that same dynamic of population movement over the years has produced a diverse set of Denver dive bars, many of them with roots in the city’s past that not too long ago catered to a smaller, hardier pool of residents.
If there is a ground zero for Denver dive bars, it is likely Colfax Avenue, one of the cities primary thoroughfares for decades, some of those decades a little rougher for the area than others. Though development has started to reclaim some pieces of the strip, the heritage here is the “rough part of town” reputation that spawned countless diners, dive bars and drive-in motels. The PS Lounge
is one of Colfax’s best offerings, the name a reference to being the “Perfect Spot.” First-time visitors receive a free (not terribly strong) Alabama Slammer shot and women are given a rose at the door, adding a little theater to maybe the city’s best dive.
Elsewhere, Bar Bar
, also officially known as Carioca Café, anchors the Five Points area of the city in a building erected in 1890 that has served as a saloon for nearly its entire history. Of course, that history includes a pesky little think called Prohibition, the space serving as a speakeasy that today hosts a regular rotation of punk and metal shows.
And then there’s Candlelight Tavern
, where recent renovations have smoothed over a rough edge here and there, but the bones of the space remain the same. A 360-degree flow around a centrally-located bar in the center of the building creates a great dive bar, community atmosphere inside, the sign out front one of the best in the city.
In many ways, Denver is a new city every decade, a fresh influx of new residents inevitably changing the makeup of the people and places throughout the area. But there are some Denver dive bar anchors to resist some of those shifting tides, the best of them artifacts of a time in Denver’s history that was a little smaller, a little rougher and always appreciative of a drink.