Sandwiched into a narrow space at 846 Broadway, the Fainting Goat sits on the edge of the Capitol Hill and Golden Triangle neighborhoods, just blocks from downtown. The three-story pub is close enough to various office buildings and the Colorado State Capitol Building to draw after-work crowds of businesspeople, yet not so far away from the action farther south that the occasional hipster doesn't stumble in before or after a show at the venues near First Avenue. But mostly there's just a regular group of colorful characters from the neighborhood occupying the comfortable bar stools.
My relationship with the Goat began years ago, when a close friend and a group of her fellow teachers at West High School would come in around 3 p.m. every Friday after getting tired of grading papers. I'm a social worker accustomed to odd hours and was often in the same boat on Friday afternoons, so I became a fixture with this drinking crew. The group eventually disbanded, but the bar is just a block away from Westword's office, so I've had occasion to meet fellow writers here since those early days.
But my most recent visit to the Fainting Goat involved neither of those groups. I stopped by with a friend after my recreational volleyball league on a Thursday night around 10 p.m. and was greeted by some gray-haired guys smoking on the street, one of whom commented on my T-shirt, which was from our apparently shared alma mater of Wake Forest University in North Carolina. We chatted about the university and determined that our time there was probably just a few years apart.
My friend and I took a seat inside at the long, wooden bar carved with ornate scrollwork — an obvious relic predating the Goat's debut in 2008. The main floor of the bar is a galley-like room, and at the back of it there was a poker game going on. Every Thursday night, poker is the activity of choice for the hodgepodge of folks who looked very serious about their gambling. It was also oddly quiet over there, so I didn't think amateurs like us would be welcome.
Instead, we stuck with our bar seats and sipped generously poured well drinks that were on the late-night happy-hour board for a dollar off the regular price. (Also on special from 10 p.m. until last call were $3.50 Coors draws.) The smokers eventually came back inside and joined us at the bar, along with a few couples and a woman who looked like a professional swing dancer, complete with a vintage dress and hairstyle.
It was a nice night outside, so we eventually climbed the two flights of stairs to the rooftop patio, one of the Fainting Goat's best features. Along the way, we stopped on the tiny middle floor, populated by two bathrooms, a few dart boards and TVs and a scattering of high-top tables. I enjoy little areas like that, perhaps because I am a weirdo and like to look down on people from above and imagine what they are thinking or saying.
On the rooftop, we spotted an old friend of my drinking partner who is a member of the band Oko Tygra, which we had seen performing at the recent Underground Music Showcase. He and I had never met, but we talked about an indie label the band had signed with and about local politics and how Denver has changed. Sitting in a bar I have visited many times before, with people who know what this town was like before legal weed and names like RiNo and LoHi were a thing, just makes me appreciate all the beautiful people who have loved our city for so many years.
The Goat is coming up on its ten-year anniversary, which means it straddles the line between old and new Denver. Owner Mark Holland, who also owns Hopper's, a sports bar with a volleyball court in Wheat Ridge, has worked in the bar biz for years. Before Holland took over, the address had been home to a string of different establishments since the 1970s, from the Parlour to Moon Time (known as a String Cheese Incident and Detroit Red Wings joint), with others in between.
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Our bartender told us about all the interesting happenings at the Goat, including the $8 fish-and-chips special every Friday and the all-day happy hour on Sunday. The rest of the week, happy hour runs from 3 to 7 p.m., with specials that haven't changed much since the days with my West High School crew. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, I suppose. Boston transplants still come to watch their favorite Red Sox and Patriots games here, but the bar prioritizes Atlanta Falcons games when it comes to football, packing the house on all three floors.
Outside, an urban tree, not even alive by the looks of it, is decorated with bras hung from its branches, just a few feet from the edge of the rooftop patio. Is it a movement of some sort — or just drunk women on a patio? Our bartender confirms, with a look that told me she was too much of a professional to have ever thrown her bra into a tree, that it's simply the latter, noting that during Pride weekend the tree gets some beads thrown in to keep the bras company. We were left wondering what sort of shots (and how many of them) would induce someone to throw expensive lingerie off a rooftop. (Probably some sweet-tasting ones with novelty names like Sex on the Beach or Purple Hooter, though most of the folks at the Goat don't seem like they'd either order or serve shots like that.)
My drinking companions have changed over the years, but it's good to know I can still come to the Fainting Goat for a beer with teachers, writers, sports fans, musicians, old-Denver dreamers — or even late-night revelers who like to throw their undergarments in trees.