After playing volleyball in the hot sun on a recent Saturday, some friends and I were looking for a drink and a place to cool off. So we headed to Gibby's Big Backyard in Aurora, in part because we heard that the "big backyard" includes several volleyball nets. After a short drive from east Denver, we happily stepped into the cool air conditioning of the spacious strip-mall bar at 1555 South Havana Street.
Inside, a modern wood-and-steel bar takes up much of the high-ceilinged space, surrounded by matching high-top tables and a multitude of TVs. Up a step on the right-hand side is a game room filled with sports-themed arcade games — boxing, basketball, air hockey — and pool tables. It's incredibly easy to find something to do at this sports bar, for kids and adults alike. Families are welcome to bring their little ones along every day until 9 p.m.; a group of small kids were enjoying the game room during my visit.
My friends and I opted for the patio, filled with picnic tables and more televisions, because we wanted to get a closer look at the two sand volleyball courts. Along with a small, mixed crowd of mostly thirty- and forty-somethings, we found seats on the patio alongside a row of custom beer-pong tables. We were greeted by Rachel Horney, a longtime staff member who smiled as she spelled out her name, telling us how the jokes were frequent, if uninspired, when she was a kid. Horney has been filling in for the general manager recently and was able to give us the scoop on the many happenings at Gibby's.
Since 2010, the bar, originally opened as Gibby's Sports Saloon, has been keeping sports, drinks, food and specials of all kinds on the menu. Gibby's is owned by local pub consortium Little Pub Company and is one of the more unique properties run by the group, mostly because of the "big backyard," definitely an uncommon bar feature. No one was out on the court in the midday heat, and Horney told us that games are mostly run by Intermediate Volleyball Programs, a company that specializes in bar leagues around the metro area. Similar volleyball setups are few and far between, but a few spots in the suburbs keep league members busy around town.
Leagues run in the spring, summer and fall at Gibby's. Folks can choose from weekly four- or six-player co-ed teams on Sunday through Thursday nights, or women's doubles on Sundays only. Friday nights, the nets are for drop-in play; $5 gets you unlimited volleyball from 6 p.m. to closing time. My friends and I perked up at this and discussed plans to come on a Friday and play, and maybe even join a league. There are even drink specials for volleyball players — $4 High Noon vodka cocktails — that sound refreshing after working up a sweat on the court.
If you're looking for a slightly less active sports option, there are also Friday night beer pong tournaments. Or, if you want to compete with your brain and not your brawn, Gibby's hosts Geeks Who Drink trivia on Sundays.
The biggest parties of the year are the summer shindigs to mark the start and end of backyard season and Cruzin' Havana, an annual event held every June for neighborhood businesses, with one of the festival sites in the parking lot of Gibby's. If eating and drinking on a budget any day of the week is what you're after, there are plenty of options for that. The bar is open for lunch beginning at 11 a.m. daily, with an updated menu of pizza, burgers, sandwiches and salads. On Saturday and Sunday, a simple brunch menu is available, including drink specials like $4 Screwdrivers, $2.50 Coors Banquets and Coors Lights, and $12 bottomless mimosas. There are two daily happy hours, from 3 to 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. to close, with $1 off wines, wells and craft beers, as well as the same $2.50 deals on Coors products.
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Customers in Hawaiian shirts, sundresses, motorcycle gear and athletic jerseys all mingled on the patio as kids played in the sand of the volleyball court. We were a little sweaty in our tank tops and shorts, but nobody seemed judgmental; we just looked like other sports-minded customers, who often roll in from the nearby Big Bear Ice Arena or High Altitude Martial Arts, two locations that are "friends" of the bar.
Whether you're looking to play volleyball, watch from the sidelines or enjoy drinks indoors, Gibby's is a net win for neighbors in this part of Aurora.