Carioca Cafe (Bar Bar)
There aren't many true dives left in Denver, as many of the greatest have been muscled out by development. But Carioca Cafe, better known as Bar Bar, is the perfect spot for people sick of sanitized bro-infested pubs and in need of cheap, stiff drinks without the attitude. Bar Bar has also been a consistent home to all stripes of experimental, noise, folk and punk music, and in its own way has kept the DIY music scene alive.
Long before there was Coors Field and what became LoDo and countless bars, there was El Chapultepec. Since opening more than eight decades ago, the 'Pec has seen its share of internationally known jazz luminaries while also bringing in some of the best local jazz players — like Freddy Rodriguez, who holds court on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and Tony Black on Sundays.
For many years, the Goosetown Tavern was just a great neighborhood hang, but when Chris Swank (who owns the Bluebird Theater across the street and Mezcal next door) bought it from the Wynkoop Group in mid-2014, he had a new stage built and a new sound and light system installed. Since then, live music has become much more of a focus, whether it's rock and punk acts or DJ AKA Miggy's popular Motown Groove nights.
For more than fifteen years, the hi-dive has been a refuge from crass commercialism, big business booking and bland bars. Cheap, stiff drinks and a revolving door of creative talent have kept the music venue ahead of the game. While Broadway and the Baker neighborhood have become a thriving entertainment zone, the hi-dive marches to the beat of its own drum, bringing in the best local bands as well as national acts on the cusp of hitting it big.
Decades before it became the punk and rock haven it is today, the Lion's Lair was a jazz club where legends like Billie Holiday and Dexter Gordon once played. It's also got one of the oldest liquor licenses in Denver, and yes, indeed, the storied bar is perfect for downing a beer or four, but you can also see local bands, and every so often big names in punk, like John Doe or Mike Watt, will play multiple nights, or former Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra will spin records. The Lair also boasts a killer jukebox.