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Is the Tavern Downtown America's best sports bar?

If you've ever sat on the 11,000 square-foot patio at the

Tavern Downtown

before a spring Rockies game, you know that it's not a bad place to be, and according to

Nightclub & Bar

, a national bar management publication, it's the best place for a sports fan to be in the country.

Nightclub & Bar recently named the Tavern Downtown the "Sports Bar of the Year" as part of its 2011 Nightclub & Bar Awards.

"We were absolutely thrilled and honored," says Helen Wood, director of marketing for Tavern Hospitality Group, which owns the Tavern Downtown. "It made us feel our efforts are really making an impact."

Bars and clubs were nominated by venue owners and operators, as well as vendors, suppliers and other industry reps. The winners were selected by a panel of industry experts comprising top consultants, developers, educators, writers, editors and trainers.

"I feel like we're a bit nicer than a typical sports bar just in the design and the quality of the food and service, and that keeps us a step above the rest," says Wood. She also credits the massive patio, which doubled in size last year, and is equipped with heaters, misters and two large projection screens; inside, amenities include thirty televisions and a mini-bowling alley. And the proximity to Coors Field doesn't hurt, either.

"We are constantly trying to think outside the box to generate ideas that will entice sports fans," adds Wood. "Our latest idea is our Tavern March Madness bracket. During March Madness, people will be able to participate in our on-line bracket (similar to the ESPN bracket) with the opportunity to win a trip for two to Las Vegas, including airfare and hotel."

The Tavern will be recognized along with other winners at Nightclub & Bar's convention in March in Las Vegas. The award could be more than just a hefty pat on the back, too. "I think it will definitely drive business," says Wood. "It's a recognition with a good name, so it will generate business for people who haven't been here before as well as national business for people who are visiting Denver."

Here's a taste of what they'll see:

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