Best Gay Bar for Gay Men 2003 | OxygenLa Rumba | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
In an increasingly fractured world of clique-catering clubs, now is the time to celebrate La Rumba for bringing far-flung splinter groups together. Every Friday night, the club that is famous for its salsa, tango and merengue dancing plays host to 0/2 (Oxygen), and it truly is a breath of fresh air for Denver gaydom. Leather men mix it up on equal ground with disco boys to the sounds of a DJ-fueled techno beat that is hot enough to provoke shirtless dancing, yet chill enough to induce the blooming of wallflowers. Men of all ages (21+), shoe sizes and titles of royalty party under the watchful eye and rugged refreshment of the beautifully bartenderizing action of Travis, whose smile alone is worth the price of a drink. The thrifty get free admission before 10 p.m., $5 after. Finally, there is a place where we can all just get along.

The Fox Hole deserves more than a Best of Denver award. It deserves to be made a national historic landmark. The proud and blessed gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered and questioning people of Denver also know it as a World Heritage Site and Universal Spiritual Power Center. Not just for its massive outdoor patio, but because it's the only bar in town in which each and every one of us has gotten lucky at least once. The combined energy of the GLBTQ community has kept our secret little hangout in the train yards going strong for years. We've danced to the rhythm under that giant cottonwood tree throughout two economic booms, three busts, a sports-bar name change and a complete neighborhood transformation. It's the big backyard we outdoors-loving urban Colorado queers turn to each and every summer -- even though each and every summer is rumored to be the last.

In the heart of LoDo rather than up in that slightly scary warehouse district, Engima Afterhours is 21st-century fresh, not '90s stale. The decor is a notch above the basic black-paint-on-wood look found at many other late-night locales, and this newish addition to Denver's club index pumps out the latest sounds in electronic music for the small but sprightly wee-hours scene.

Occupying the remodeled space formerly known as Sanctuary is the officially unnamed club every glow-stick waver in Denver is calling "Butterfly" because of the chrysalis symbols on the club's fliers and the giant butterflies suspended above the dance floor. Whatever its appellation, we just applaud the club's unusual reliance on local DJ talent instead of overpaid out-of-towners: Hometown heavy hitters the Pound Boys, Nutmeg, DJ Sense and Vitamin D fill prime-time slots. We also favor the cyberpunk decor, the abundance of chill space, the massive multimedia screen and the courage of the club's new owners in booking hip-hop into their side room at a time when most LoDo club owners have been scared off.

Molly Martin
The past year saw several venues abandon original heavy metal, forcing bands and fans to run for the hills -- or the suburbs. Fortunately, Bottoms Up was waiting in Aurora. With a new name, new owners and a newly renovated interior, the bar formerly known as Heimmie's Pub quickly established a reputation as a place headbangers could feel comfortable. Little touches -- such as treating the bands decently and having a local-scene-savvy musician (Mark Sundermeier, of the non-metal Sad Star Cafe) do the booking -- entice more established area metal bands to play alongside newcomers. Heavy music doesn't rule the roost every night, but when it does, prepare to be rocked like a hurricane.

Heavy-metal fans, leather up and break out the earplugs. House of Rock's black-clad lineup of head-banging hard rock and metal proves that angry music never dies -- it just fades from radio airplay. House of Rock operates from a nondescript warehouse building in Northglenn and features original local and regional bands like Brutal Infliction, Concrete Sandwich, Rogue, get the idea. For House of Rock patrons, it's all in the name: You'll find no flaccid, strummy "alternative" bands on this stage, thank you very much. Acts rotate frequently in the smallish space; it's often standing room only on weekends, with revelers lined up five deep at the bar. There's an enclosed outdoor patio to escape to when the smoke, screaming guitar and double bass begin to overwhelm your senses.
Eric Gruneisen
All the cowboys in cowtown know that for the best country music, you've gotta go where the rose is grizzly. Even the Country Music Association named the Grizzly Rose one of the top clubs in the country. The huge complex offers free dance lessons on Wednesdays, weekly performances from local C&W bands, and a roster that brings some of Nashville's hottest names to the Grizzly stage. A mechanical bull for aspiring buckers and an apparel shop for wannabe cowgirls are among the attractions. But the gigantic hardwood dance floor is the biggest draw. Nobody beats the Grizzly when it's time to dance up the dust. Yee-haw!

What more could a world-weary, bop-starved jazzaholic ask for? At Dazzle, a cozy and stylish boîte in Capitol Hill, the management provides a broad array of fresh talent -- local and national -- every week, along with a superb sound system, beautifully made cocktails and excellent saloon food, including a perfect hamburger. From the framed jazz photos on the walls to the chrome martini shakers in the display case, Dazzle's atmosphere reeks of downtown cool. You'll find Prada as well as blue jeans lolling on the living-room couches, but music is the thing. A recent release party for saxophonist Keith Oxman's new CD, Brainstorm, featured some sublime playing, and the club's mid-summer big-band marathon, staged on a Sunday, was sheer bliss -- all twelve hours of it.

Dulcinea, what did we do before you were born? Stellar live jazz, blues and funk blare -- or sometimes ooze -- from this Colfax lair six nights a week. A laid-back, hip Capitol Hill crowd helps give Dulcinea's the pervasive feeling of comfort; there's no pretension, just casual cool among the clusters of grungy-yet-comfy sofas and sturdy coffee tables. With older siblings Sancho's Broken Arrow and Quixote's True Blue guiding her way, Dulcinea has already turned into a beautiful lady.

Eric Gruneisen
It's not the most high-profile club in Denver, nor the biggest. Still, when local bands snag that first weekend slot at Herman's, they know they've reached a benchmark in their careers. One of the few clubs outside LoDo to offer -- and need -- valet parking, the Hideaway has helped launch the careers of groups such as Big Head Todd and the Monsters and Opie Gone Bad. Today, newcomers get a chance to break in during twice-weekly showcases of new talent, and on busy nights, the dance floor is a swirling mass of grooving chaos. A casual crowd and friendly, family-feeling staff make Herman's a fun place to go even if you don't know who's playing. And even if you don't like the act on stage, you won't want for entertainment: Sooner or later, someone will get drunk and provide a sideshow. Just don't let it be you.

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