By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
Impulse Theater: 1634 18th St., 303-297-2111. Audiences shape the shows inside the Impulse Theater, a smoke-free space located in the bowels of the Wynkoop Brewing Co., and a cast of actors and comics improvise their way through the often absurd scenarios thrown out by the crowd. Bar service is available in the theater.
Ironworks Brewery: 12354 W. Alameda Ave., Lakewood, 303-985-5818. The brewing machinery is prominently displayed in the window of Ironworks, where eight-ball tournaments are taken seriously and a lava-lamp tree sees all. Rock bands work the spartan, metallic pub on weekends; gamers turn up for darts, pool and good beer seven nights a week. The house brews can be purchased to go in 2.25-gallon Party Pigs.
Jammin' Joe's: 7129 Sheridan Blvd., Westminster, 303-428-4597. Blues lovers come to Jammin' Joe's for live music, karaoke and a bucolic atmosphere. A sunken floor for billiards and several loft tables add to the quirky congeniality of the relaxed setting.
Jazz @ Jacks: 1553 Platte St., #202, 303-433-1000. Music notes lead the way down a hall to Jazz @ Jacks, an intimate non-smoking venue near the lofty Riverfront Park neighborhood. All seats point to the stage, where artists wielding synths and soprano saxophones perform for patrons who prefer their jazz on the lite side. Local jokers perform sketch comedy on Thursday nights.
Lakewood Bar & Grill:8100 W. Colfax Ave., Lakewood, 303-237-8051. There are no frills in the brick building that houses the Lakewood Bar & Grill, where grizzled locals and a sometimes surly staff might scare off the uninitiated. On weekends, classic rock and cover bands perform in a separate room for a blue-collar crowd.
Larimer Lounge: 2721 Larimer St., 303-291-0959. A bright spot in an otherwise desolate stretch of the Ballpark neighborhood, the Larimer Lounge hosts up-and-coming touring bands and locals most nights of the week; theme nights fill out the rest of the calendar, which emphasizes rock, punk and indie fare. Recent cosmetic improvements raise the former Sunshine Lounge above its divey beginnings, but it's still an inexpensive and low-key location.
Lime: 1424 Larimer St., 303-893-5463. The entry to Lime is full of vibrant colors. And once you've descended the stairs to this below-ground restaurant/club, the flavor remains tangy and festive through inspired partitioning, a twist of Mexican inspiration, a youthful crowd and a fresh DJ lineup.
Lincoln's Roadhouse: 1201 S. Pearl St., 303-777-3700. The rowdy rock at the Roadhouse fits the rough-and-ready crowd or the people looking for a beer and a band on the weekends. Big booths keep colleagues comfy and close for talking, and the stage is right by the window, so prospective patrons can get an earful before they are even inside.
Lion's Lair: 2022 E. Colfax Ave., 303-320-9200. Small, smoky and curiously laid out -- a huge bar takes up more than half the room -- the Lion's Lair is nonetheless a Denver rock-and-roll institution. Local punk, rock and garage bands are most likely to be found on the elevated stage, though hot touring acts sometimes pack the place. Regulars drop by for cheap draft beer and the company of an occasionally crusty clientele.
Little Bear: 28075 Hwy. 74, Evergreen, 303-674-9991. Housed in a century-old former church, the Little Bear is the prototypical Western saloon, with the added attraction of rafters full of donated bras. Local and national rock and blues acts can be seen on the stage from the main floor or upstairs, where you'll find a smoky poolroom -- except on smoke-free Fridays.
Lotus UltraNightlife: 1701 Wynkoop St., 303-718-6666. Lotus's minimalist shui of orange blossom, sapphire and crimson hues attracts the short-skirt-and-Aldo-stiletto-clad crowd. Those fashionable enough to reserve bottle service enjoy plush burgundy benches in the club or a booth inside the glass-encased VIP lounge known as Karma. Union Station gets hipper by the minute.
Mario's Double Daughter's Salotto: 1632 Market St., 303-623-3505. The tables and bar stools look like they've been dipped in candle wax, and there's a giant synthetic tree -- replete with flying birds -- that branches out in the middle of the room at Mario's Double Daughter's Salotto. A non-smoking lounge that adjoins Mario's Two-Fisted Pizza and claims the same owners, the Salotto is a sensory treat with an agreeable weekday happy hour and progressive DJs spinning every night of the week. Mario, you've such a lovely daughter.
Maximillian's: 2151 Lawrence St., 303-297-0015.The Latin Explosion still ripples through Maximillian's, where a large wooden dance floor entices young salsa and merengue enthusiasts. No place for wallflowers, the LoDo club is a destination for passionate dancers who take their steps seriously -- as well as those looking to spice up their moves.
Mead St. Station: 3625 W. 32nd Ave., 303-433-2138. A rowdy restaurant/bar in northwest Denver, Mead St. Station's biggest draw is probably its reasonably priced food and decent array of microbrews and top-shelf liquor; on weekends, the bar is crammed with happy imbibers. But music is also on the menu several nights a week, with acoustic, cover, jazz and R&B bands working a window-side stage area.
Mercury Cafe: 2199 California St., 303-294-9281. A restaurant, dance club, music venue and speakeasy, the Mercury Cafe is in an orbit of its own, hosting everything from lindy hop lessons to poetry readings, high teas and Green Party meetings. Rock-and-roll shows were axed years ago, but classical, jazz, avant-garde and singer-songwriter performances still go on in the Merc's three baroque rooms. Every cultural subset can find something at the Merc, the embodiment of Denver eclecticism, and all dances are smoke-free.