El Charrito has issued last call. In 1962, Pat de la Torre opened her restaurant in the former Juarez bar in the old Western Hotel at 21st and Larimer streets, at what was then the end of Denver's skid row. When news came that Coors Field would open in the 'hood in 1995, she expanded into the corner space next door.
But even with baseball, business was tough in this part of town, and by the late 2000s the restaurant was closed and the bar only open occasionally. In 2009, though, de la Torre's youngest daughter and son-in-law, both teachers, took over the watering hole, opening El Charrito on weekends as a “five-star dive bar.”
Not only did the revived El Charrito serve good, cheap drinks in a down-home ambience, it became a lively spot for karaoke, comedy and other events. When Matt Orrin quit teaching and devoted himself to the place full-time, he opened the Comedy RoomRoom in the original restaurant space, which earned Best Comedy Venue in the Best of Denver 2018. But the yuk will soon stop here.
Here's the sad news posted late November 4 on the El Charrito Facebook page:
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Hey friends, we have some news for you. Sunday, December 23rd will be our last day of business.
We (re)opened our doors on September 18th, 2009 after being closed for over three months. We were only open weekends until June of 2010, when we started opening 5 nights a week and then eventually, 6 nights a week.
Over the last nine years we have had MANY cool, and fun events in the bar. We've had Comedy, Burlesque, Punk Rock, Metal, Weekly Jazz, Wedding parties, Birthday parties, Graduation parties, Science, Improv, Bartender events, Community meetings, Tequila & Food Pairings, Bingo, Fund raisers, Election night gatherings, and (of course) Karaoke. There are probably some things forgotten from that list, and if so, please share them. There are lots of thank yous that need to go out, and they will. After.
Don't be too sad, but rather think of the good times you might have had with us, and WILL have with us these next 7 weeks.
Sorry if this bums you out, and please don't inundate the staff with 'why' because we guarantee you...it bums them out too!
The building, in what's now a prime part of downtown, is being sold, which will mean the end of El Charrito. In the meantime, the owners ask that you share memories of the place on its Facebook page. (See more of its history in this Karl Christian Krumpholz Denver Bootleg comic.
This stretch of Larimer Street used to be studded with dive bars; among the most legendary were the Elbow Room and the Bronco Bar, which disappeared as developers started moving in after the construction of Coors Field. With hip new spots now stretching from Larimer Square up to 35th, where Phil's Place recently turned into the Embassy Tavern, few of the original saloons from Larimer's wilder days are left.
For a taste of an area once dubbed NoDo, for the lack of dough and investment compared to happening LoDo just blocks away, drop into the Mexican City Restaurant & Lounge, just across the street from El Charrito at 2115 Larimer Street. That joint has been family-owned for almost fifty years, and although the interior got an overhaul several years ago, it still serves some of the best greasy tacos in town. Follow that with a drink at the Star Bar at 2137 Larimer, which dates back further than El Charrito; although new owners bought the place a decade ago, it still has plenty of dive-bar ambience.
And then end your tour at El Charrito at 2100 Larimer, the perfect place to toast the very good old days of Denver past and present.