It’s said so often it’s almost a bad cliche: Denver is so queer-friendly that you don’t need to go to gay bars to find nightlife, companionship, and a welcoming atmosphere. While it may be cliche, it’s actually true. Denver has a thriving scene of LGBTQ nightlife spots, but there are also plenty of places where you can meet like-minded individuals and even attend queer events that aren’t designated “gay” spots. Here are a few that you should frequent in the city, whether you are bi+ and looking for something outside the norm, or just looking for a new, queer experience.
The Black Box
If you’re looking to dance and get weird with it, The Black Box is ideal for letting loose and meeting some strange friends. Even if you aren’t familiar with the specific brand of low-key, underground dubstep and drum n’ bass spun at The Box, you can still be wowed by the venue’s thundering sound system and the cool dystopian, black-and-neon, cyberpunk motif. Also, the Black Box Margarita, a jet-black drink filled with tequila and blackberry liqueur, is an excellent ice breaker drink.
While The Black Box isn’t queer-owned or specifically geared towards gay events, proprietor Nicole Cacciavillano is a queer ally stoked about the diversity her bar attracts.
“At The Black Box, it’s all about the music,” she told OUT FRONT. “Denver’s devoted home for underground music is designed to encompass the total sound system experience. The dual-room venue is fully equipped with powerful Basscouch Sound. A haven for artists, audiophiles, and partygoers alike, The Black Box is headquarters for Colorado’s underground music community.”
If you haven’t been to the Mercury yet, you are missing out on actual magic. The main room and the upstairs are draped in red and white lights, making it seem like you stepped into some sort of ethereal faerie realm rather than a vegetarian-friendly bar in Five Points. There is always a Tarot reader in the main room, and all the drinks are like something out of a Beat novella. They do live music, dance classes, special events, spoken word, and a mean desert.
What makes the Mercury queer-friendly? They host plenty of queer events, most recently the Titwrench LGBTQ and feminist music fest and a show featuring queer band Psychic TV. They also have a mission statement posted on the premises about welcoming all and decrying fascists.
“Everyone is (and always has been) welcome at The Mercury Café. And we love to do weddings,” said Marilyn Megenity, Mercury’s owner.
Every city needs a good old fashioned punk dive bar, and Hi-Dive is just that place. They host punk, indie, and metal shows, and are open to genres and folks of all kind. They also post a mission statement about being a safe space and inclusive, and the owners will be quick to tell you that they strive to be a meeting ground for all. On almost any given night, this is the place to grab a quick drink and hear some weird music.
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.
Mutiny Information Cafe
Almost directly across from Hi-Dive, Mutiny is a Denver staple of progressive thought and a counterculture hotspot. The bookshop on South Broadway also serves as a coffee shop, occasional show venue, slam poetry hotspot, meetingplace, and quiet work area. With an emphasis on shared radical information and counterculture, and a mission to stock as many records, books, comics, and magazines as possible, Mutiny is about as queer as it gets. Plus, they don’t serve alcohol but stay open late, so if you’re looking for a safe and sober place to spend your time, look no further.