The Irish Snug Spotlights Colfax History and Irish Traditions
The patio is nice, but inside the Snug is where it's cozy.
The Irish Snug has been a Colfax Avenue standby for the past twelve years: a neighborhood bar for the Capitol Hill crowd. I frequented the place six years ago or so because my dramatic neighbor would drag me there to help her "casually run into" her ex, who was a regular. I went along because it was generally a good time at the Snug, not because I actually wanted to be a part of her weird shenanigans. The Snug is almost always filled with an eclectic crowd — from tourists staying at the Ramada Inn across the street, to twenty-something transplants fresh from somewhere in the Midwest who live in the various apartment buildings in the surrounding blocks, to weary-looking Colfax denizens who hang out in and around the bar — so there are always plenty of new people to meet.
The bar evokes many an old-world pub, with a mirrored bar, classic dark wood and leather booths, along with an actual snug: a small, enclosed section of the bar, often with a window and a buzzer to allow patrons to order from the bar and get drinks sent through to the snug area. Manager Cormac Roman, himself from Ireland, explains that the Irish tradition of snugs came about to allow privacy for anyone who didn't want to be seen out and about at the bar. Historically, it was deemed inappropriate for women to frequent drinking establishments, so the snug was a discreet hideaway for ladies in need of a pint or other beverage.
So, of course, once my friend and I got the explanation, we headed straight to the snug and rang the buzzer. We were there on a recent Friday night, and my friend had beaten me there by making the wise choice to call Uber instead of attempting to park in the congested streets adjacent to the bar. She had already found a seat at the bar, which was full of various middle-aged guys wearing dad jeans and white sneakers — as well as one younger guy in his thirties. This thirty-something gentleman introduced himself and was very vocal about moving over a seat to make room for me because a "beautiful woman shouldn't have to stand." He told us that he had moved here from Miami three months ago — which sounds about right for a Denver bar patron. He was rocking that intentionally bald look that sometimes disguises actual baldness, the look made popular in Miami and the world over by rapper Pit Bull.
My friend had already ordered a glass of the house pinot grigio, and despite the extensive beer selection available at the Snug, something about that wine just looked like a good idea. It had been a long week and I was also hungry, so I ordered a plate of Irish nachos (my favorite thing on the menu), which may or may not have paired well with white wine. What are Irish nachos, you ask? They're a delicious invention that involves all the toppings of regular nachos, but substitutes fried potatoes of some sort for the usual tortilla chips. The Snug uses waffle fries as the base for this creation.
Ringing the buzzer inside the snug to get a drink, like an old Irish lady.
As is typical of Irish-themed pubs, soccer paraphernalia and pictures of other, older Irish pubs adorned the walls. But, oddly, there were also Auburn Tigers banners decorating the place because for some reason, the Snug has become a favorite for Auburn football fans. I can't believe I just discovered this fact, as my dad's side of the family lives in Alabama and will defend Auburn football to the death.
Roman is fairly new as a manager at the bar, but he clearly loves the place and knows the history well. Before it was the Irish Snug, the space housed the Crazy Horse Bar — owned by legendary Denver character Sid King — and featured topless burlesque shows. A musical about King's life and times as Denver's "Sultan of Striptease" premiered last month at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, and the Snug also recently hosted a two-night run of "Sid King's Burlesque Revival," featuring local burlesque performers as yet another tribute to the Crazy Horse and the man who created its legacy. Roman hopes this will become a more regular feature at the pub.
A copy of this photo is on the wall at the Irish Snug, honoring Sid King and the ladies of the Crazy Horse.
Originally printed in the Rocky Mountain News, 1978 by Steve Goer. Courtesy of the Denver Public Library, Western History & Genealogy.
Not that there aren't plenty of other things going on at the Snug. Tuesdays have been Geeks Who Drink trivia nights for years; Thursdays are for the Running Club, when local runners enjoy beers after completing a five-kilometer run together; Sundays and Wednesdays feature live music. The downstairs "Under the Snug" space is rented out for private parties regularly; I went to a friend's fortieth birthday party down there a couple of years ago. Roman particularly enjoys hosting a local church group that makes sandwiches at the bar and delivers them to homeless folks in the vicinity. Of course, that's just during normal weeks. The place is always bananas every St. Patrick's Day (as all Irish bars are). If you're up for drunk people wearing green, lots of specials and Irish music, you can find all of those things at this neighborhood Irish bar on everyone's favorite drinking holiday.
In the heart of Capitol Hill, you can count on the Irish Snug as a place to meet your neighbors, or keep it intimate and have a conversation with six of your closest friends by squeezing into the snug. Whichever you choose, the service will be friendly and the drinks will be flowing.
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