Charlie Brown's Bar & Grill
Mark Antonation
When Eagle County and Pueblo have passed smoking bans, you know the writing is on the wall. Whether or not the Colorado Clean Indoor Act passes the legislature and is signed by the governor is almost moot. If they don't, the Denver Regional Council of Governments will step in and almost-assuredly push one through for the entire Denver Metro area. Before lighting up becomes a crime, head over to Charlie Brown's. Sure the smoke is thick and heavy there, but that's part of the bar's charm, along with the piano and Paul Lopez tinkling its ivories. It brings back images of older days when Denver was young and brash. There's also the cheap surf and turf that is surprisingly good, and the patio is one of the best in the city for early evening people watching.
Meadowlark
Several months after opening, the Meadowlark Lounge still has that new-bar smell, thanks to its decision to 86 smoking. Everything in the underground tavern is pristine and clean, from the shiny bar to the bathrooms, a dichotomy to gritty Larimer Street just outside its heavy, wooden door. But the place is laid-back and unassuming, a perfect spot for a chill beer, a conversation and even some mind expansion, thanks to Pyroclastic, a new experimental electronic-music night that makes its nest at the 'Lark every other Thursday. Pretty soon, the subterranean spot will feel worn in, like it belongs in the hood, but it won't ever smell like an ashtray.
Lodo's Bar & Grill
If you can maneuver the maze of striped shirts that line the bar five-deep and survive repeated offers to take Jagermeister shots with complete strangers, you will have the opportunity to immortalize yourself in the TP-littered graffiti gallery that is LoDo's bathroom. Better than freshly laid cement, LoDo's stalls are a canvas waiting to be decorated with your wit, poetry, declarations of love and, even better, testaments of hate. Nowhere is the First Amendment so righteously put into practice. Tell Jessica she is a slut. Let everyone know that Matt slept with Veronica. Leave your number (for a good time), and know that people will read your profound thoughts while they are peeing for years to come.
During Friday night's Lipgloss festivities, the men's room at La Rumba is backed up worse than DIA on Thanksgiving weekend. Luckily, controlling all that human traffic is one Brooks Miller, wise-ass, punk-rock bathroom attendant. With a barely perceptible smirk that nonetheless screams, "Dude, are you for real?," he squirts soap, administers cologne and keeps the paper towels coming. With the Buddha-like patience of a junior-high janitor, he seems almost paternalistically fond of his drunken, dick-in-hand wards. Don't forget to tip, my friends. You are in the presence of a master.
A weekday fixture on the seven-to-five shift, 52-year-old Terry Sullivan has been tending the 72 feet of mahogany at Duffy's Shamrock for more than 23 years, dispensing a quip as he whips up an Irish coffee, exchanging notes on the latest Broncos win (he's held north end-zone season tickets since 1967) while drawing a Guinness, wondering aloud about the Rockies' woes (on homestands, that's Terry up in section 328, row 1) while pouring a cup of black joe for a stockbroker en route to work. "Night bartending is tough," the balding, bespectacled master of his domain explains. "You get a different crowd. Working days has allowed me to keep regular hours, raise a family and have a pretty good time." Truth be known, he's following in his father's footsteps. Dad Danny was the longtime proprietor of Sullivan's, just around the corner at 14th and Court Place, which fell to the wrecking ball in 1982 -- the same year Terry took up at Duffy's.
If Grenade were to put a help-wanted ad in the newspaper for a doorman to join his coalition of hotties, it would read: "Looking for an Adonis, six-foot-plus, with chiseled features, washboard abs and an affinity for tight jeans and fitted T-shirts." And we thought the bouncer mold was football-player rotund, with a double chin, buzzed hair and an affinity for Twinkies. But at a place as West Coast-wannabe as Grenade, a Euro-hawk-sporting pretty boy will suffice. Actually, it's preferred.

BEST PLACE TO ROLE-PLAY BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN

Charlie's

Charlie's Denver
For the past 25 years, Charlie's is where all the real gay cowboys (and ranch hands, sheepherders and rodeo riders) have met, two-stepped and tried to quit each other. But it's hard to quit watching them twirling each other gracefully across the floor every night in their ten-gallon hats, boots and skintight Wranglers. If line-dancing isn't your thing, Charlie's offers other choices: non-C&W dancing, pool, darts, trivia, karaoke, Broncos parties, food, the bar's infamous annual Valentine bachelor/bachelorette auction and many other events throughout the year that benefit the LBGT community. So slap on your spurs, come on down and cowboy up.

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C's Bar

Jack and Ennis? What about Jacqui and Eunice? They're here, they're queer, and if you think gay cowboys can rope 'em and ride 'em, try gay cowgirls. It's hard to say who dances purtier, cowboys or cowgirls, but at C's, ya don't hafta dance with the one what brung ya. In fact, you don't have to be able to dance at all -- they'll teach you for free with dance lessons every Saturday night. You can also shoot pool, throw darts, cheer on the Broncos or sit under the stars on the covered patio and serenade your sugar 'til the cows come home. Git along, little dykies.

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AND DYKE DRAMA

tHERe Coffee Bar and Lounge

There Bar & Lounge
Eric Gruneisen
Lesbian-couple owners and operators Jody Bouffard and Kathleen McDowell launched tHERe last summer in the old Oh My Goddess! Space on Colfax. In addition to serving LaVazza coffee and Tazo and loose teas from Wild Oats, the barista babes' cozy Capitol Hill cafe hosts weekly "stitch & bitch" knitting sessions, a pagan discussion group, lesbian speed-dating and musical events. It's also Denver dykes' place of choice to view the must-see-TV sapphic soap, The L Word, during which, rumor has it, the riveted audience is so silent you can hear a thong drop. McDowell and Bouffard may soon be able to add booze to their list of offerings: The shop is up for its liquor license hearing, scheduled for March 31. We'll drink to that!
In the land of Starbucks, seeking out the small independent coffee shops can feel like an archaeological mission. Thank God for blogs like milehighbuzz.com, started by a self-described "coffee shop junkie" with the initials DCB, to provide locations and info about some of his favorite hangouts. The website provides photos, maps and hours of such Denver mainstays as the Tattered Cover and Common Grounds, and also provides a peek at hidden neighborhood jewels like the Shooting Star Cafe and Stella's Coffeehaus. Log on and smell the coffee.

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