Simply placing a Pride flag in the window does not an LGBTQ bar make, but it’s heartening to see the rainbows winding their way into more and more mainstream establishments.
For queer bars, Denverites often have to dig a little deeper, as the LGBTQ cultural scene is not always matched by the prominence or number of clubs. In the past year, the city lost two of its newer spots, Fusion and Lucid, despite a thriving post-pandemic LGBTQ scene.
At the end of June, some establishments will take their rainbow flags off the walls, but Denver’s queer bars will keep them flying all year long. In that spirit, here’s a quick roundup for Pride month and in advance of Denver PrideFest (June 24 and 25), 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, Tracks 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 last season’s champ, Willow Pill, Tracks has open mics and hip-hop nights (18 and up!) and three of the best dance floors and DJ setups in the city. 3500 Walnut St., 303-863-7326 or tracksdenver.com
Within walking distance of both downtown and Capitol Hill, 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. Pride month will generate even long lines down the block. Get there early, or not, and be ready to sweat (especially at the undies or leather parties). Look up #partyoncolfax 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, Boyztown bills itself as Denver’s Hottest Male Revue (RIP the former Compound Basix nearby). Most nights, limber, cut dancers, deft DJs, and a generally high-energy atmosphere run free until the last call. It’s the only solely-male strip club in that area, so you’ll also find bachelorette and birthday parties. 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 the Tight End. Still, the City Park West bar — which opened in 2021 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 developed some of the city’s best drag queens, poets, singer-songwriters and stand-up comics on its small stage. 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 in the daytime, as it formerly hosted the LGBTQ space tHERe, which had a similar menu. 1526 E. Colfax Ave., 303-484-8548 or blushbludenver.com
As the only brand-new name on this list and only a few blocks from Tight End and Blush & Blu, Bad Habits delivers a casual, inclusive space to the already thriving LGBTQ scene on East Colfax. According to Westword, Bad Habits seeks to provide a hometown, dive-y spot for a jukebox, classic pub food and more than 25 beers on tap. For those seeking alternatives to alcohol, Bad Habits also features an abounding mocktail menu, featuring non-alcoholic versions of classic drinks with character-derived names like the Carrie Bradshaw Cosmo and Jan Brady Margarita. 3014 E. Colfax Ave., 303-335-9690 or badhabitsdenver.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 Colfax 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
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. 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 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 a while 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
3 Kilts Tavern
This shining oasis occupies the former Barracudas space in a cozy, busy strip near Cheesman Park. 3 Kilts Tavern’s authentic, tasty Irish menu and drinks parallel its all-inclusive atmosphere and themed events (Pride drag performances, Pride food specials, open-mic comedy, etc.). Pull up a seat and plan to stay for a minute, or 120. 1076 N. Ogden Street. 720-866-9852 or 3kiltstavern.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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