Used to be that a bar was only as good as its jukebox, until even the most respectable of hole-in-the-walls started going digital. Not that we can blame them. Maintaining a thirty-, forty-, fifty-year-old machine that's constantly prodded by drunk people is expensive.
Indeed, the list of bars that maintain coin-operated, CD- or vinyl-playing jukeboxes in Denver is dwindling. Even Nob Hill and Streets of London, charming dives in their own way, have gone digital. But there are still a few places in Denver where you can find Patsy Cline playing on vinyl or '90s-era mixes spinning on CDs, the way the good Lord intended.
Here are six, listed in alphabetical order.
1600 17th Street
Though the Cruise Room's jukebox is iconic, the bar housed in the Oxford Hotel wouldn't have made this list just a few months ago; the jukebox hadn't worked in years. But on January 1, Sage Hospitality, which owns the Oxford, finally took ownership of Denver's first post-Prohibition bar after a thirty-year lease ran out. With that decision, the free jukebox, which plays 45s from Nat King Cole, Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra and more, was up and running again.
2375 Sheridan Boulevard, Edgewater
Practically lost among the new office buildings, fast-food restaurants and a massive Target on Sheridan Boulevard is Lakeview Lounge, a grungy dive that opens at 7 a.m. and has a stellar view of Sloan's Lake. Not much has changed in this bar over the years, including the jukebox, which plays everything from Patsy Cline to Benny Goodman to George Strait — all for free.
2022 East Colfax Avenue
The (free) jukebox at this relatively small bar along East Colfax Avenue serves almost as a centerpiece — one that bites. The ’box here turns out throw-back punk like the Replacements and the defunct Lyin' Bitch and the Restraining Orders, a member of which now owns the Lair.
3416 East Colfax Avenue
This Denver dive, known for giving roses to female customers, has a jukebox that hasn't changed since the ’90s, as is evident by the Swingers (1996) soundtrack. But from classic blues (Stevie Ray Vaughan) to Harley-Davidson road songs and Greek music, what this juke lacks in modern tunes it makes up for in variety.
Sancho's Broken Arrow
714 East Colfax Avenue
Though Quixote's True Blue might be closed (R.I.P.), sister bar Sancho's is alive and kicking — and maintaining a CD-playing jukebox that dates back at least to the ’80s. On it you will find "a wide variety of hippie stuff" — so said a bartender recently, including the Grateful Dead, Widespread Panic and the Allman Brothers.
140 South Broadway
Lots of change is happening on South Broadway, but you wouldn't know it by stepping into the Skylark. Its old-school jukebox plays everything from Hank Williams to David Bowie to Muddy Waters.