Mile High Night Life: The Perfect LGBTQ Night in Denver
During the day, Denver is exciting and beautiful, but it doesn’t shut down with the mountain sunset. Our nightlife is as lively as they come, and offers a variety of different bars and clubs that share one similarity—they’re fun and welcoming to all.
Although any bar in Denver are accepting, there’s something special about visiting a local LGBTQ bar and diving into The Mile High City’s queer community. They are the spots where you know you’ll be surrounded like-minded, fun and eccentric people. And luckily for us, there are plenty of options to choose from, no matter your taste.
Dancing Queens (and Kings)
For those that want to bust out their dancing shoes and cut a rug to remixes of today’s top hits you’ll want to hit one of the top dance bars in the city—X Bar, Tracks, Blush & Blu, or Charlie’s.
X Bar is a staple for Denver LGBTQ folks. Known for its inclusivity towards both the queer and straight communities, X Bar has been around for seven years and has been an important staple of Denver for just as long.
“X Bar is well known for the pink flamingos during pride, and they are everywhere,” explained Cindy Alix, general manager at X Bar. “We also give them away and have the biggest pink flamingo around on our float. We have a very special float this year, so we are looking forward to the parade on June 18.”
The bar boasts nightly specials and drink deals, as well as two dance floors for the weekends and a large patio section. People flock to the bar to dance and get down or just to drink and relax, and many in the LGBTQ community have made it their regular hangout.
Just a few blocks down on Colfax sits one of Denver’s most popular dance bars, Charlie’s.
It’s always a party at Charlie’s. With its mythical two-step lessons early in the evening, go-go boys, cheap sloshy beer, and an entire room for its frequent drag shows, this staple of the Denver gay scene has something for everyone.
Frequent Charlie’s-goer Sean Doyle cited the “be-yourself vibe” as one of the things that keeps him coming back and gushed that, as Denver doesn’t have a concentrated gayborhood the way, say, Chicago or San Fran do, Charlie’s is one of the “few places that the gay community can own as one of theirs.”
An absolute must if you like: fierce and fabulous drag queens, cheap drinks handed out by topless cowboys, watching go-go boys hang from the ceiling, or having a good time while wearing and doing just about whatever you want.
A few more blocks east of Charlie’s on Colfax is Blush & Blu.
Spilling out of patio doors surrounded by a perfect rainbow paint job, which covers the entire face of Blush & Blu, is an assortment of people of all shapes, colors, sizes, and genders. Some look like they’ve stepped out of a club kid fantasy, while others are more casual. Despite what they are wearing, they are greeted at the door by a woman covered in tattoos and plastered with a smile. She waves patrons in, telling them to get a drink and that the “party is in here.”
The gatekeeper to the rainbow palace is Jody Bouffard, the only lesbian in Denver who owns a queer bar. More specifically, she owns Blush & Blu and has kept it alive through her own blood, sweat, and tears
“A queer bar is more than just a bar,” Bouffard said. “It’s a place where anyone can come and dress however they want. They can hold hands with whomever they want. They can sing and dance however they want. They can come and just be themselves. These people will always have a place at Blush & Blu.”
A few miles north of Colfax, in RiNo (River North Art District) sits one of Denver’s best dance club, Tracks Nightclub—which is a haven for LGBTQ people and allies, bottom line.
Tracks continually delivers fun themed nights, great music, and some of the best drag queens Denver has to offer on Thursday thru Sunday nights, usually starting at 9 p.m. The establishment and the event space next door have cemented Track’s legacy as a premiere cultural center for LGBTQ and drag culture in the Denver community.
For young people, Tracks is a place to go for a fun time in a safe space, and it has been providing that kind of atmosphere for nearly 40 years.
The Small Talk
It can be overwhelming to bust right into the dance bars, especially if you want to meet a few new people over a few drinks. We’re not running short on those either.
Denver’s oldest gay bar, R&R Bar is a Denver staple. Nestled snugly on Colfax, R&R Bar was a cozy and becoming hole-in-the-wall before dive bars and the grimy charm of Colfax were hip. While unassuming and small, R&R Bar proudly serves the LGBTQ community and is going to be participating in Pride again this year.
“We open the Sunday of Pride Week at 7:30 a.m.,” explained Rich Illgen, owner of the bar. “We do complimentary breakfast burritos before the parade, so that’s always a big thing, and people get a couple of cocktails in ‘em before the festivities start.”
R&R Bar is fun, friendly, and “not cliquey,” according to Illgen. The atmosphere is light-hearted and the clientele is always eclectic. The small space screams acceptance. Think of all those dive bars in the movies where everyone is smiling and a little drunk. They laugh, the play darts, they’ll read you in the most flattering way. The bartenders are nice and often pour with a heavy hand. Oh yeah, the drinks are pretty cheap too.
Located on Santa Fe Drive and West 5th Street, Trade has done more than just survive its first year in Denver—it has thrived. Trade, which opened in April of 2016, quickly made a name for itself as the Levi’s and Leather bar in town, making it a go-to spot for queer nightlife in Denver.
Hosting popular weekly events that range from fetish to hilarious, it’s providing a space beyond the niche that caters to a wide net of Denver’s queers. And it’s doing it with open arms, thanks to some of the most personal bartenders the city has to offer and its dedicated owners Ray Hurtado and Chris Newell.
“We want everyone to feel comfortable here,” Ray said.
Hamburger Mary’s, at 1336 E 17th Ave, is, dare I say it, one of the more important cultural institutions in modern Denver history.
Food and culture blend well at Hamburger Mary’s, and most of their events are centered around drag competitions and feature elements of drag culture. The combo of flying wigs, high heels, delicious food, and gut-busting laughs is not something you’ll want to pass up on. We recommend drag brunch on the weekends.
If you’re looking to see some queer entertainment outside of the regular gay bar circuit, you can usually find something out-of-the-ordinary going on at the Clocktower Cabaret.
This spot is directly under the historic clock tower on the 16th Street Mall and hosts everything from drag and burlesque to comedy and dance performances. They also serve food and drinks. Some recent events include queer-lesque, a queer-themed burlesque, and Drag Decades featuring Shirley Delta.
No matter where the night takes you, it’s going to be fun. Raise your glass, and save us a spot on the dance floor!