A combo bar and barber? The Retro Room is a cut above

The combination of liquor licenses and life's errands has always struck me as clever. In college, I used to frequent a laundromat with a full bar; while grocery shopping, I've been known to crack open a near beer while slugging down the aisles. If I wanted to drink during a haircut, though, I had to stop at a liquor store and snag a forty long before I settled into a swivel chair. But now the Retro Room — part salon, part saloon — has cut out this pit stop. Which is slick, though not the primary reason to love the spot.

For years, the blocks of Larimer Street between LoDo and Park Avenue have been retching their run-down storefronts and shadier shit shops in favor of general gentrification — cafes, spas, trendier bars, etc. Hell, even the ol' Star Bar has a nice new coat of green paint out front. And why not? The Ballpark 'hood is more or less an inevitable extension of its hipper and more-indistinguishable-by-the-day neighbor (save a few more members of the shopping-cart brigade still soliciting smokes and change). This is especially true on the weekends, when the Ginn Mill, Scruffy Murphy's and even Herb's have lines out the door by 10 p.m. But not the Retro Room, not tonight at least, and the streets are awash with blasted baseball fans.

So herein lies the best reason to love the Retro Room: space — on the resin chairs of the front and back patios; at the bar when it's time to order a drink; or, as is the case for me and my friends, in the oddly elevated and terraced area in the back corner of the bar where the cocktail-table Ms. Pac-Man/Galaga machine sits, a semi-private padded area we occupy with more and more abandon as the hours pass.

My first and second round of Olympia cans ($2), which are pulled from a series of six chalkboard-scribbled refrigerators behind the bar, go down effortlessly to the sweet soundtrack of high scores on both Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga (fifty cents a play), much to the chagrin of my mates. As with darts and various competitive yard games, my skill (in this case joystick control) at old-school video games is at its height when I'm half in the grass. But three more rounds and $5 in quarters later, I experience a rise and fall of epic proportions: One moment I'm ordering four more cans of Olympia and only paying $7 because the bartender can't make change (win!), and the next I'm ham-handedly upending whole cans on the video-game glass, splashing it onto passersby and gesticulating wildly in an attempt to recover from my blunder (fail!). At the same time, the flat-screen televisions scattered around the bar – which previously had been playing music videos by the likes of Alice Cooper and the Red Hot Chili Peppers – go dead and Akon's "Locked Up" takes over, much to the delight of the growing crowd. "Time for slices?" I ask my companions.

Definitely. Definitely time for slices.

Within moments, I'm back in the saddle, spreading pepperoni-and-cheese pie on paper plates from the Marquis down the street all over the glassed good name of Pac-Man's wife. What would in any other bar downtown be a special section reserved for bottle service becomes our own personal empire of deepening debauchery. We eat and drink like kings — sozzled, slovenly kings unaccustomed to proper etiquette requiring No Grease On The Galaga Machine. Later, as I cross town in a cab with two more tinfoil-covered plates of pizza for buddies at another bar, one unfortunate female in my Retro Room crew passes out on the bus home and ends up stranded at the airport, a remarkable feat I didn't even know was possible with local service.

And to think: We might all still be standing in line somewhere, sober as the days we were born.

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Drew Bixby

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