The DJ looks lonely. Partly this is because it's a balmy night and the front patio is packed; partly it's because everyone else is bellied up to the bar or parked at one of the high-tops in the main room. Or maybe it's because, according to the sign, "The maximum number of persons allowed in this area is
70 DANNY!" — and Danny is nowhere to be seen. Whatever the reason, nobody's dancing — or sitting at the booths, or using the photo booth — in the long side room at Lost Lake Lounge, where the DJ table is stationed.
In stark contrast to the regular jockeys at Sputnik — another of Matt LaBarge's hip, moody enclaves, where DJs share elbow room with the bar staff, the booth-crowding patrons and the bathrooms — this guy doesn't have to endlessly riffle through milk crates of vinyl, pinch one can of his oversized headphones between his ear and shoulder, look busy and important, basically. Still, what I've always seen as an awkward burden (seriously: what do MP3 DJs do back there?) probably sucks for tonight's music-maker. Hopefully he's at least downing free beer.
Out front, I'm pinned against the wrought-iron railing drinking $7 Dark & Stormys, a Lost Lake favorite and the inspiration for a soon-to-be official happy hour called the Admiral's Club. Long story short, my buddy Nate — who, not so incidentally, is also the foursquare mayor of Lost Lake — returned from a trip to Key West with tales of admirals and dark rum, and an East Colfax institution was born. If and when the Admiral's Club sets sail as more than just a few friends drinking Goslings, it won't be until after 7 p.m., since, as of August, that's when Lost Lake has been opening its doors (it was 4 p.m.). While bullshitting on the patio with Tyler, one of tonight's bartenders, he tells me that the 7 p.m. switch has been going well. "It's classier, you know?" he says.
Lost Lake Lounge
Lost Lake Lounge
3602 East Colfax Avenue
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Also going well are piano-focused Sunday nights (standard and vintage Wurlitzer) and Thursday residencies, which have featured WaterCourse Foods' Steamin' Demon food cart out front. By the looks of it, Saturday nights aren't going too shabbily, either.
All around me, however, I'm struck by the contrast between the Bulldog Bar and Lost Lake, which opened in March shortly after the Bulldog shuttered. Some of the contrast isn't immediately obvious: Which of these gold-chained light fixtures and retro sconces are original, and which did Matt bring in? Same wood paneling or updated? Hard to tell. Other decor changes are not so ambiguous: the woven owl thing with tree-branch horns hanging by the stage; the lacquered print of a unicorn dancing on a tile floor with lightning in the background; the photo-album drink menus featuring reprints of OG 1970s hipsters and their backdrops — these touches are all, quite obviously, new. The pool table disappeared, but the wood-burning, cast-iron fireplace stove remained (thankfully). The Sharpie-scrawled "One Drink Minimum" sign and frozen-pizza oven are gone, but the bathrooms, in their original condition, remain.
Probably most disparate is the clientele: Where the Bulldog catered largely to a working-class echelon of culturally diverse drunks and transients, Lost Lake attracts the entire taxonomy of twenty- and thirty-something creatives — most of 'em, like Denver in general, white. Around midnight, this divergent reality walks in the door in the form of a black couple, who pull up two bar stools in front of the golden Lucid Absinthe Superieure louching machine and wait as the bartender helps other customers down the bar. That's when the woman notices her surroundings and whispers apprehensively to her partner, who drinks in the crowd with a few darting glances. They wait another minute or two, and then she's on the move — tucking and rolling off the right side of her stool and bailing out the door in haste. He follows immediately after.
Play them off, lonely DJ.