I am not a cigar smoker, and neither is my friend who invited me on my first expedition to Devon's Pub, a modest-looking bar and cigar store in the Happy Canyon shopping center in University Hills. She just likes to smoke clove cigarettes indoors and watch free comedy shows. I didn't really know what to expect walking into Devon's, but the offbeat, smoky little joint was a pleasant surprise.
The scene was full of regulars on a Wednesday night. Some younger suburban-dwelling types occupied a corner of the place that was obviously designed to be the "fancy cigar-smoking" part of the bar, with leather sofas and ashtrays aplenty. Seated along the bar, I noticed a cache of men and women who vaguely reminded me of Saturday Night Live caricatures of Chicago Bears fans, except they were Broncos fans — because this is Denver. There were also some dudes in their forties and fifties wearing leather jackets and playing pool.
You wouldn't guess from the looks of the place, but apparently there is some serious billiard talent coming through Devon's. According to General Manager Jon Harris, several teams of regulars from the bar have gone on to compete professionally in Las Vegas. Photos and plaques representing the accomplishments of house teams are scattered across the walls of the bar near the pool area, alongside an impressive collection of framed "Cigar Aficionado" magazine covers from the '90s featuring the likes of Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore and Denzel Washington. Amateur pool sharks and high-level league players are all welcome in the pub, and the pool table is extra-busy on free billiard nights on Sundays and Mondays.
As we waited for my friend, who is the expert on Devon's because she goes there most Wednesdays, my roommate and I chose a spot next to a wall lined with arcade games and a Colorado Lottery ticket-vending machine. The friendly cocktail waitress immediately lit up when I mentioned my friend's name; she knew who she was and what she would be drinking. She introduced me to Harris, who regaled us with fun facts and tales of small-time celebrities who have stopped in at the bar.
The strip-mall building that Devon's now occupies used to be an antique shop called The Perfect Setting. In 1996, owner Gary Romero turned it into a cigar store. In '98, he brought Harris in to do a sort of "pop-up bar" on weekends in the cigar-club section of the store. It was a success, so in 2001 he ended up converting that half of the store into what amounts to a bar with a humidor full of cigars for sale. It's actually listed in Google maps not as Devon's Pub, but as "T Devon Premium Cigars Inc." Before the 2008 housing crash, DTC bros would flock to the bar to impress each other by buying expensive cigars. After the economy shifted, the clientele shifted in kind, replacing the affluent bros with blue-collar folks from the neighborhood who wanted to smoke cigarettes indoors after the 2006 smoking ban. As a cigar bar, Devon's is exempt from any restrictions on smoking inside the building or on the patio. Most people in the bar seem to be smoking cigarettes rather than cigars, which Devon's also sells individually and by the pack.
Harris also mentioned that some of the radio personalities from Clear Channel radio stations come into the bar, given its proximity to the Clear Channel building on South Monaco Parkway. According to him, DJs from KBPI and 93.3 are the ones most likely to be seen at Devon's enjoying cigars or drinks. I guess rock music goes well with a nice stogie.
Soon after our enlightening chat with Harris, my friend and her fiance arrived. They suggested that we move to a cluster of tables that represent the best seats in the house for watching the open-mic comedy show that would soon take the "stage" in front of the cigar display wall. Next to us, the remnants of a birthday party for someone who likes skulls and black-and-white balloons filled with confetti were scooped up by the staff, and the comedy show commenced. Also in the super-fan zone were an elderly couple; My friend told me that the female half of this duo always wears a Hooters shirt and likes to shimmy around — perhaps to draw attention to her sweet fashion choice? In my mind, I created a story wherein she is trying to relive her glorious youth as a Hooters waitress.
The open-mic comedy show featured a series of comics who appear to be nerdy white high-school kids but must have been at least 21, as well as one black guy who seemed much older by comparison and seemed to be the headliner, if there is such a thing during open-mic sessions. His set centered around sex, as standup comedy often does. He asked everyone about their favorite sexual position, including my roommate, who declined to answer, causing him to heckle her relentlessly.
As the night wore on, various young-looking couples from the neighborhood trickled in to fill the vacant spots at the bar, bringing the average age of patrons in Devon's down somewhere into the thirties. Between comedy sets, the comic serving as the emcee of the evening played a game with the crowd. Audience members were invited to call out items that belong in designated categories to win a chance to throw a glow-stick ring around a mic stand and win a free beer. The category for the evening was "PG-rated movies that sound like weird pornos." My answer of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" won me a glow ring to throw, but I couldn't manage to get it around the stand to win that free drink. No matter, when the bill came, I discovered that the Shock Tops I had been drinking were plenty cheap.
As the open mic ended and the crowd began to disperse, we prepared to head out ourselves. As we filed out into the cold parking lot, the scent of smoke lingered on our clothes and hair. While this is not my favorite thing, as a non-smoker, something about it is a little nostalgic. It evokes bygone days when everyone smoked wherever they wanted, and on the morning after a night out, you could always count on the light scent of smoke in your hair as a reminder that you had been out in the world.