This is part two of our three-part Beermuda Triangle series, which explores the Beer Depot, Tennyson's Tap and the Berkeley Inn, three bars at the corner of West 38th Avenue and Tennyson Street that are as easy to get lost in as the mysterious waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Read about our first stop, the Beer Depot, here.
The right angle of the Beermuda Triangle is anchored by Tennyson's Tap, at the corner of 38th and Tennyson (4335 West 38th Avenue, in case you're using GPS). I rolled in with a couple friends during a Sunday Broncos game in December, and things were pretty quiet, probably because of the Broncos' season of struggle. The game was projected on a huge screen over the stage area in the corner of the roomy interior, which also held a wooden bar on one side and several tan leather booths against the opposite wall.
Spirits were high among the gaggle of older guys beside us and the friendly younger female bartenders, because the home team was actually winning. Our bartender turned out to be none other than Squeaky Springs, who tends bar but also leads a punk-rock burlesque troupe that just recently moved its act from Tennyson's to Streets of London Pub. She also hosts karaoke night on Mondays at the Tap, aptly called "Tennyson's Sings With Squeaky Springs." She introduced me to some of the regulars and filled me in on the notable specials and special events, of which there are too many to list here, but you can find them all on the Tennyson's Tap website and Facebook page (it's too bad this place wasn't around when I was in college).
We were in luck, because Broncos games mean "lots of free shit," according to Springs — namely Touchdown shots, a raffle for Broncos-related prizes, and a taco bar at halftime brought in from Burrito Giant down the street (because Tennyson's Tap doesn't have a kitchen).
We continued to chat with Squeaky Springs for a while, and she also introduced one of my friends to clear whiskey, one of the many and varied whiskeys at the bar — all of which the bartender seemed familiar with. She also introduced us to Dave Fox, the man in charge, who has been holding the spot down since 2011, when he bought the bar from the owners of Baron's, which had been in business for twenty years before that and was known primarily as a biker hangout. Before it was Baron's, old-timers say, the building was home to a gas station. Fox opened Tennyson's Tap after working at Baron's for years, but he has also owned a recording studio right behind the bar for much of that time. He completely gutted the place and installed all kinds of the best sound equipment for bands to use on the new stage and has wired the sound from the bar to the recording studio so he can record live shows.
Fox says he knows how to do things like this because of his previous career as a music producer for various big-name Clear Channel radio stations; he was in charge of sound for their live performances. He knows many bands from his radio days, so the quality and variety of live acts that hit the stage here is pretty impressive. Recent shows have featured bands like local punk rockers King Rat; Smokestack Relics, a band that describes its sound as "swamp rock"; and nationally touring college-rock band the Nadas.
While talking to Fox, it's clear how much he loves this neighborhood, where he lives and works, and the Denver music scene. He doesn't necessarily love the "Beermuda Triangle" concept, and told me he thinks of it as a thing of the past — but he doesn't seem to mind when I tell him I'm exploring the three wonderful bars. He knows the owners and staff at the other two bars well, and remembers getting a "Beermuda Triangle" T-shirt back when someone made them years ago. He doesn't have any plans to make any himself, however.
Fox has encouraged other bars in the neighborhood to get their cabaret licenses in order to help bolster local music in the area. The growth of the neighborhood is good for business, and Fox and his bar are happy to meet and welcome anyone who walks in, even though he knows that many people in Berkeley grumble about the "yuppies, yuppies, yuppies" moving in.
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Because of the mix of regulars and musicians, bands and families commonly form at Tennyson's Tap, Fox explains. Several local bands have gotten started after members met here, and several babies have resulted from couples meeting on his bar stools. During the course of the evening we visited, the intermingling of diverse elements became obvious; a few younger people joined the throng at the bar, and an older lady introduced herself as BeBe, explaining that she's a staple at the open-mic nights on Wednesdays. BeBe gave me a book (as an "un-birthday present") called The Be Attitudes that she had written herself; it was full of affirmations on how to "Be Loving," "Be Luminous," or, more concretely, "Be Thrifty" and "Be Organized" (something I read to my unorganized friend during our ride home that night).
The hard-shell tacos with ground beef (I can't remember the last time I had those) from Burrito Giant upped the nostalgic, unpretentious elements of the evening — and shots were passed out to celebrate a Broncos touchdown. "We take our shots collectively," Squeaky Springs proclaimed; mine went down with a little Coke and the taste of belonging.