Most of my familiarity with the bar involves volleyball. I play in a Wash Park volleyball league through local company Volleyball of the Rockies, which partners with the Dive Inn for post-game specials and events, so a recent trip to the bar with my teammates came after a couple of hard-fought games of Thursday-night volleyball. It was also my birthday, so everyone was in a celebratory mood.
At the Dive Inn, it's easy to get into a festive, beach-vacation spirit with the Jimmy-Buffett-comes-to-Denver decor that includes a box full of life jackets, a signpost indicating the coordinates of important locations such as Montego Bay and Key West, and an actual motor boat in the center of the main seating area. Of course, my friends and I sat in the boat. When the bartenders were informed that it was my birthday, they pushed a button behind the bar that made a loud horn noise — you know, so that I could pretend I was blowing the horn on the boat. Some might call that silly or childish, but we called it awesome.
Owner Jason Tietjen was inspired to create the tropical theme for his bar after many vacations to Cozumel, Mexico, with his family over the years; he even owned a dive shop there. Tietjen, who seems to know everyone who's anyone in the Denver bar scene, had tended bar part-time for years and was working at the Candlelight Tavern, a much older neighborhood joint in Washington Park, when he decided it was time to finally open his own place. He bought the building that used to be BJ's Carousel, a neighborhood gay bar specializing in drag shows, from Bob Engel, who had owned it for more than thirty years. Little remains of the old BJ's Carousel, but the unique sunken bar, a feature you don't see much these days, is something that Tietjen kept.
We ordered assorted drinks, from Moscow mules to beers to shots — all of which were cheap and of a healthy size. We also ordered food off the small menu of simple but well-executed Mexican fare such as quesadillas and tacos. Again, the portions were large and the prices were reasonable. This is how they do it around here; Tietjan's bar is known for not having a happy hour — just specials all day, including $5 Moscow mules and $4 pours of Jack Daniel's and Tullamore Dew.
The jukebox was playing an excellent assortment of ’80s hair-band arena anthems, which seemed to fit the mood. There's just something right about sitting in a boat, eating quesadillas and listening to Europe's "The Final Countdown." In case that's not enough for you, the Dive Inn also has eighteen big-screen TVs, some old-school arcade games, a pool table, darts, a Ping-Pong table and a back patio with cornhole sets. You can even join competitive Ping-Pong, cornhole or billiards leagues on weeknights. During Broncos games, there's a football-toss event on the patio in which guests try to throw footballs through tires. This summer, the Dive Inn is hosting a series of Saturday-afternoon pool parties with Deep Eddy, complete with kiddie pools and bathing suits. There's a little something for everyone here, especially for bros — the kind of bros who like to do a lot of different things.
The Dive Inn welcomes friendly dogs onto its patio — one of the first bars in town to do so after it became legal in 2014. But closing time for dogs is 9 p.m., so that dog owners don't get too drunk to pay attention to their pets — a good rule, but one we had to learn the hard way after my friend had to turn around and take her pooches home after arriving shortly before 9. Those who bring their dogs can enter them in a contest for the cutest picture of a dog wearing a Jack Daniel's bandanna — something I'm certain my dog would be into.
Aside from being one person and two dogs down, our volleyball team persisted in having a good time. The place wasn't packed, but it did have a good crowd. The Dive Inn seems to attract a mixture of sporty-looking bros and vaguely hipster-looking couples who seem like they could be into roller derby or rockabilly music. That makes sense when you consider the bar's proximity to both the hipster enclave of Baker and the sportier, more bro-centric Wash Park — not to mention the multitude of huge new apartment and condo complexes just north on Broadway.
Tietjen says a great crew of regulars keeps the bar lively, and he loves it that his customers can walk to the bar. He encourages patrons to be safe with the slogan "If You Dive, Don't Drive." So if you live in the neighborhood and you're into bar games or you want to drink on a boat, if you want to take your dog to the bar, or if you just like cheap food and drink specials, the Dive Inn is the place for you.