The cops are everywhere by the time we roll up to the Squire Lounge (1800 East Colfax Avenue) just after 8 p.m. — two squads blocking (and facing) eastbound traffic, another pulled halfway onto the sidewalk, all of them screaming red and blue, all of it a familiar and strangely comforting display of Colfax drama at its finest. We linger and gawk for a moment because the officers are busy, and because it's safe to do so on foot. Then we head inside to find out what happened.
The story goes like so: Guy without a home (or at least without a home with running water) half hobbles/half falls in the front door gripping a wooden cane above his head and screaming about needing the police. Suddenly, dude without a roof (or at least access to a washing machine) tears in after him, demanding his stick back. A scuffle ensues. A bartender hops the bullet-shaped bar and bullies them to the curb, where they continue to have at each other. A group of nearby Guardian Angels calls the police. Two beats of a vagabond's drum later, five of Denver's finest have their guns drawn and their mad faces on. Yelling and handcuffing breaks out, and then: fire extinguished. Nothing to see here.
Welcome to the Squire, where drag-down skirmishes and verbal altercations between staff, customers, hobos and the 5-0 are not necessarily the rule, but certainly not the exception.
But then, that's why I love this place, this urinal-cake-smelling diamond in the rough: Except in the dead of winter, the front door's always open, which means shenanigans are never more than a few feet from wandering inside and attempting to bum a dollar or get a sip off that pitcher. Always on the alert, the staff will then castigate these harmless clochards in front of everyone, and while the over-salted shuffleboard table with its scuffed-up, broken pucks is fun, there's nothing better than watching the dirt get swept out the door from the safety of your bar stool.
The fisticuffs over the cane are soon forgotten once we have cocktails in hand. We're here because the owner has graciously offered to host a fundraiser for Maggie's school — $20 wristbands score us unlimited domestics and wells all night, with everything but cost and wage going to Wyatt-Edison's activities fund. I am most definitely going to get everyone's money's worth out of my Andrew Jackson, but even if they put down four or five drinks, many others surely will not. And here's why: The Squire is so fucking cheap (especially on Sundays, during service-industry night, when you can bring $10 and leave completely snockered). Even so, the place is packed, with bands playing on the small stage in the side room and a large group of men and women responsible for educating Denver's under-served about to be anything but.
As we pound PBRs and whiskey-sodas, I tell a friend about a no-drama night here when Mags and I parked ourselves at the bar next to a middle-aged man with worry lines etched into his forehead. After exchanging pleasantries, he told us his very sad story — about being from out of town, about his terminally ill son in a bed over at Children's and about his wife's insistence that he go for a walk and find a drink. While talking, Maggie and this man simultaneously discovered a $50 bill on the floor by their feet. Is it yours? No. Is it yours? No. Let's drink on it, then; and we all did, until he needed to get back. And though he tried to let us keep the change, we insisted that he take it and buy something for his kid. "Take him somewhere nice when he gets out," we told him with probably false optimism.
I'm damn near weeping into my beer by the time I finish this story, but I'm drunk, and those things have a way of going together. I shake off the memory, snap back to the party happening in all corners and decide some forgetting is in order. "Let me get a bunch of wrists up here," I holler at the friends hovering around, "and let's see if we can get us a Bionic Beaver." Legendary on Colfax, the Beaver is a 52-ounce pitcher filled with whatever the bartender feels like including — rums, vodkas, beers, juices, whatever — and served with a handful of straws. It's notorious for both beginning and ending nights. When Andrew finds a minute to help us, we coyly smile and ask if all these wristbands put together could score us one. He grimaces. "How about if we throw in a $5 tip?" He snaps his fingers and smiles, quickly returning with a reddish concoction that gets passed around and finished within minutes.
The last band stops playing, and before the musicians can even turn off their amps, I'm feeding the jukebox. Andrew makes me a deal: "You play three consecutive songs that I don't hate and I'll buy you a drink." So I lead off with some Jackson 5, follow it with Spoon's "I Summon You" and then some third pick I can't remember. Whatever it is, it pleases the staff and remaining drinkers just fine. With a shot of complimentary Jameson in hand, I "cheers" everyone around me.
Here's to the Squire, easily one of Denver's greatest dives. — Drew Bixby