At Forty Years, Govnr's Park Tavern Is a Neighborhood Sports Bar for the Ages

I've spent many a happy hour at Govnr's Park Restaurant & Tavern — most of them when I first moved to Denver. It was the place to be for any girl in her twenties who wanted to hang out with the bros, meet new bros, watch sports, hang out with other people while they watch sports, or get two massive beers for the price of one. I've changed a bit in the last ten years — and so has Gov's Park. This was apparent to me when I grabbed drinks there recently with a friend who lives in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. 

Gov's Park has gone just a tad upscale, most notably with a few menu changes. While still bar food, choices now involve things like Big Nose Lager-infused pretzels and sriracha garlic ranch dipping sauce (pretty fancy, right?). My friend and I ordered sliders and fried "onion petals," dunked in the aforementioned ranch. I barely remember the last time I ate the food at Gov's, but I will remember it this time because the new menu is more enticing to my tastebuds.

A few of the interior areas around the bar have also been spruced up, but a massive hundred-year-old palm tree still presides over the middle of the dining room. Owner Mike Plancarte tells me the palm tree was a gift from the Coors family to the original owners of the bar. Why a palm tree? Who knows, but the tree does inexplicably seem to be thriving under its skylight. 
Plancarte and his business partner also own LaLa's Wine Bar + Pizzeria next door, as well as the Paramount Cafe and Marlowe's downtown. They bought the place in 1998, though it had been operating in the neighborhood since 1976 under the previous ownership; this year marks its fortieth anniversary. In the ’80s and ’90s, Govnr's Park even hosted a few actual Colorado governors for their acceptance speeches.

Gov's, as regulars call it, has always been a neighborhood bar, but the emphasis on sports has evolved over the last decade — especially with the addition of football brunch — to cater to fans of the Broncos and the Chicago Bears. There are, however, enough TVs in the place so that fans of many other teams can enjoy a game on Sunday afternoons.

Hence the bros. Any bro, no matter what sport or team he's into, can find a corner of the bar to watch his particular game with his particular group of bro friends. That part has definitely not changed. Happy hours, Sundays and almost any other time of the day or night, the place is bumping, full of dudes of all ages and ethnicities in sports jerseys, backwards caps, frontwards caps (sometimes even no caps), beers in hand, watching some sort of game. Plancarte tells me that in the late ’90s, Avalanche players, not just fans, also frequented the bar.

That's not to say that there aren't any women at Gov's, or that the bar is unfriendly in any way to women. It's just, as a friend of mine used to say, a "sausagefest" much of the time. But aside from the skewed demographics, Gov's is also still a good place to grab cheap drinks after work and to catch up on ESPN news over rounds of beers. Plancarte also hosts many charity events; as a local company, the owners are committed to supporting good causes in the Denver community. 
Like other longtime bar owners in Denver, Plancarte has seen the Capitol Hill and Governor's Park neighborhoods explode over the years with new waves of transplants, watching numerous condo buildings pop up all over the area. In the past five to seven years, Plancarte says, the number of new restaurants and bars opening nearby has really changed the landscape for a place that was once sharing business for the entire area with Don's Club Tavern on Sixth Avenue.

So Govnr's Park has been working to change with the times to keep things fresh as a standby in one of Denver's oldest neighborhoods. The neighborhood sports-bar formula clearly still works, and 23-ounce beers that are always cheap but come in at half-price during happy hour are also a draw (though it's noteworthy that the bar has stopped, probably wisely, bringing people two huge beers at the same time during happy hour for the two-for-one deal). Now you have the option to just get one huge beer for half price. Or two — it's up to you. 

Whether it's the cheap beers, new and improved food, boatloads of TVs or boatloads of bros, Govnr's Park has cemented its status as a go-to spot for the denizens of the Capitol Hill neighborhood to get their drink on. With the constant evolution of the neighborhood, locals and transplants know you can't go wrong with the Denver watering hole. 
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Sarah McGill is a contributor to Westword's Food & Drink section and can be found exploring Denver's neighborhood bars. She is also a ghost story and karaoke enthusiast. Despite not being from Colorado, Sarah and Denver have been in a long-term relationship, and it seems like this one might be for real.