Where: 5126 East Colfax Avenue
When: Open Tuesday through Sunday from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m.
For more info: Visit slashersdenver.com
What we saw: After meeting at a pop-up art show in the space behind bar/coffee shop/clothing store Bellwether in 2020, owner Josh Schmitz struck up a friendship with Nate Szklarski and agreed to let him put on his own month-long horror-themed pop-up.
Following a successful run — and with Schmitz busy working on new Larimer Square concepts Hidden Gems Ice Cream, Drunken Bakery and Ghost Coffee Saloon (which is temporarily closed because of a fire in the space) — the two decided to morph Bellwether, which had been open at 5126 East Colfax Avenue since 2016, into Horror Bar, with Szklarski at the helm.
When it debuted in March, Horror Bar proved popular almost instantly, with lines forming out the door. But in June, sexual-harassment accusations against Szklarski resulted in vandalism of the building and a lot of public backlash.
As a result, Horror Bar shut down and Szklarski stepped away, leaving Schmitz, whose Handsome Boys Hospitality Group is now running or in the process of opening a total of seven concepts in Denver, in charge of the vacant space.
"The business model itself proved viable," Schmitz explains of the decision to stick with the horror theme at the address. "So we can keep the same business model; he [Szklarski] just can't be involved."
Changes include the installation of an entirely new AV system, including immersive lighting and a high-end sound system; double the seating and number of televisions; and four times the number of wells to increase the bar's capacity to serve guests.
Bellwether's former barbershop space is now a movie room, with seating available by reservation for the screenings that will take place at 7 p.m. nightly. Meanwhile, the front space has been turned into "a goth, emo, hardcore party bar," Schmitz says.
The cocktail list has been given an upgrade, too, by general manager Sutton Black; the lineup has new names and new recipes for most of the offerings. Highlights on the menu include Bloodbath ($5), the strawberry and Everclear-based house shot, and the rum-based Case of the Scorpion's Tail, which comes topped with an actual scorpion ($14).
Schmitz and his team are planning food partnerships with spots like It's a Bodega to create snack boxes for movie nights and special events, including a month-long Halloween celebration in October. Ongoing fundraisers for local nonprofits are also built into the business model — not only at Slashers, but at all of Schmitz's concepts. "I think that as any type of business owner, you should take care of your community ...and it's not pandering or anything like that," he says. "It's just what I think we should do."
What surprised us: The bar's tagline: "a dive craft bar." The term "dive" is fairly definitive, usually earned over time (and with a lot of spilled drinks). A good dive is also generally the complete opposite of a "craft bar." But according to Schmitz, that's exactly what will make Slashers stand out.
"It doesn't mean craft cocktails in a dive bar," he explains. "It means insane craft cocktails but at almost borderline dive-bar prices, and if you're not into craft cocktails, you can still have your $6 shot-and-beer combo."
"This is an inclusive place for weirdos," notes bartender Reychel Saflor, who worked at Horror Bar and explains that she's staying on the Slashers team because she loves the inclusive nature of the place. "Sometimes people go into a craft cocktail place and feel not cool enough or like they need to know more to be there, but this place isn't pretentious. Everyone is welcome, and everyone is like family."
Schmitz echoes that idea. "Drink what you want, listen to what you want, dress as you want," he says.