The best gay bars in Denver

The state capital of Colorado, and by far the largest city in the region, Denver has long been a haven for the LGBT+ community. As such, there is no longer a need for a specific gay neighbourhood in Denver, host of the biggest Pride festival in the Rocky Mountains area, as there continues to be in other American cities. As a result, you can find gay-friendly drinking spots in many of the city’s 80 neighbourhoods, although the majority of gay bars in Denver can be found either around East Colfax Avenue or South Broadway. Being generally amicable and laid back come-as-you-are affairs, there’s really very little reason not to check out gay Denver while visiting the Mile High City.

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When it comes to Denver gay bars, a great place to start, if you can find it squeezed as it is between restaurants and auto parts stores, is Gladys: the Nosy Neighbour. Located on Santa Fe Drive just south of the Santa Fe Art’s District area of the city, Gladys is a deliberately inclusive space intended to be welcoming to every member of the LGBT+ community. Here the drinks flow whatever the day of the week, largely in preparation for the nightly stage performances and karaoke evenings that have already made this newish spot a beloved part of local nightlife.

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Trade works hard to be a convivial space for anyone who considers themselves belonging to the ‘+’ of the LGBT+ tag

Not far away you’ll find Trade. Although this space may not be everyone’s cup of tea given its raison d’être as a place where bears and the kinkier members of the community are able to relax and let it all hang out (almost literally, pitch up on a Thursday night for the Underwear Night called Skivvy Strip Down), Trade also works hard to be a convivial space for anyone who considers themselves belonging in some way to the ‘+’ of the LGBT+ tag. The well-stocked bar is bathed in natural light by day and atmospheric illumination by night, while the bar staff are both knowledgeable and warm to newcomers.

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Occupying a corner plot on South Broadway a few blocks away, Li’l Devils Lounge is just that, a laid back lounge space where its perfectly possible to while away an afternoon or evening without even realising it (not least thanks to its long happy ‘hour’ from three till seven each day). Somewhere to grab a beer with friends old or new, this unprepossessing spot has a drinks menu that includes hand-crafted cocktails made to order, and no less than eight beers on tap, including some from the local small-time craft breweries Denver, has developed a name for (alongside its partial legalisation of cannabis). Come when the weather’s good to make the most of the outdoor patio and barbeque area, while whatever the weather you can be sure of a warm welcome inside, and the chance to catch a drag act or live band.

Photo: Nathan Dumlao

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X-bar combines the sleekest of bars with a quirky collation of chandeliers, live plants, and kaleidoscopic disco lights

Li’l Devils Lounge isn’t the only place in Denver that is able to offer its patrons either drag performances or an outdoor patio, with X-bar offering both these attractions and a lot more besides. The spacious warehouse-like yet atmospheric interior combines the sleekest of bars with a quirky collation of chandeliers, live plants, and kaleidoscopic disco lights over two floors. Street-level is the place to linger for a chance to call house during drag queen bingo or hang around for Sunday night’s wet underwear shower competition, while downstairs you’ll find the dancefloor. Outside you’ll find an enclosed patio space bedecked with shared seating and more than a few Stars and Stripes.

Photo: Tatiana Rodriguez

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Located in the city’s Uptown neighbourhood, which once upon a time would have been described as the Denver gay neighbourhood, Pride & Swagger is one of the few LGBT+ nightspots that still has this connection with the area’s past. Another large space in which to check out LGBT Denver, its rather plain brick and glass exterior ringed by outdoor seating (more for smokers than anything else) hides a homely and modern bar space that wears its heart (lightly) on its sleeve. Its ‘everyone welcome’ ethos, choice of light bites, and cocktail list (of which Silk Knickers must be the tastiest when it comes to both taste and name) means it’s a popular spot to meet up with friends whatever their sexual orientation.

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Perhaps the newest, and most glamourous of gay bars in Denver is Triangle Denver, ideally situated in the historic Triangle Lounge building in the Downtown area. While you might want to avoid the coffee (its from Starbucks), there are still more than enough reasons to stick a mental pin in the map by Triangle Denver while exploring the city’s heart. More in keeping with the sophisticated air is the farm to table food menu, produced locally and sustainably wherever possible (along with its cocktails), which can be enjoyed in semi-private high-backed banquettes. If that’s not enough for you, Triangle Denver also aims to host live entertainment on a nightly basis.

Photo: Tobias Nii Kwatei Quartey

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