No Thanks, Dierks

Here’s a summary of nights I’ve spent in the LoDo area of Denver that I either have mostly forgotten or would like to:

  • When I was working for an entertainment website in college, I was assigned to PHOTOGRAPH and then WRITE ABOUT a bikini contest at Jackson’s. Presumably, it was a little easier for the bosses to stomach the idea of sending a nerdy girl with glasses to such an event rather than literally any of the male freelancers. While I was most definitely a nerdy girl with glasses, and tried extremely hard to make that clear to any patron I encountered, I was also still *checks notes* a woman who was perceivably more accessible to the drooling men in attendance than those participating in the competition.
  • My 21st birthday, when I consumed a drink from bucket and later yelled, “I’m drunk and I’m running” while probably not actually running back to my sober friend’s car.
  • Several shows at the Marquis Theater from ages 18-23 – okay, with the exception of maybe my taste in music at various points of my young life, those were actually mostly fine.
  • My sister’s pedal-hopper bachelorette party, which would have been terrible enough (because the combination of bike-riding, drinking, and blocking traffic was a really cool plan) without several other bridesmaids giving the only underage bridesmaid vodka-soaked gummie bears to put in her virgin cocktail at dinner in plain view of our server who definitely knew what was happening, walking in on my sister puking in a public bathroom at 9 pm, and her diabetic bridesmaid giving herself an injection of some kind to make sure she would be able to get good and drunk that night without dying. I don’t know if this is actually responsible diabetic person behavior because I am not diabetic, but she was kind of the meanest of my sister’s mean girl brigade of bridesmaids even though I had never met her, so I’m just going to assume she sucks and makes bad choices. I also had to wear a tank top that said something like “It’s a bachelorette party, bitches!” I don’t remember what it said, just that the word “bitch” was on it somewhere, and I have since trashed it. I left early, and I don’t remember any of the bars we stopped at because THEY ARE ALL THE SAME.
  • A radio station event where some band I liked at the time was playing on a roof-top patio. Although, I can’t recall the band. Maybe The Fray? Shut up – they’re from Colorado okay! Clearly, this was at best, a mediocre event.
  • A night out with a friend and her very drunk husband who decided he wanted to discuss feminism and specifically, Lena Dunham, with me. This is also one of the less than five times in my life that I’ve accepted a shot of the peppermint variety, and my digestive system did not enjoy it.

LoDo is full of mediocre to actually terrible places that are all kind of indistinguishable from each other where the youths from the suburbs flock to drink fruit punch flavored cocktails and bad beer and gyrate to some inexplicable combination of country music and mumble rap, before driving drunk up and down the I-25 corridor, waking up hungover and relishing their super awesome night in what they believe is Downtown Denver.

Geographically speaking, it is Downtown Denver. But this block of shiny shirts and gold chains being someone’s idea of Denver is tragic. LoDo is quickly losing any ounce of charm and uniqueness it once had, and this is only amplified by the gut punch of the permanent loss of El Chapultepec just a few months ago.

Then, Denver got the news that some guy named Dierks is going to pour salt in our fresh jazz-loving wounds and open a restaurant, bar, and “music venue” called Whiskey Row in the space where LoDo’s Bar & Grill once was. And fine, okay, I guess we’re replacing one shitty bar with bad food, people, and music with another. But it’s not exactly a wash is it?

It’s obviously not rule that every new place in LoDo has to be soulless and generally suck. Take Ophelia’s for example. Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox inhabits a building that was once a brothel, and somehow they’ve managed to preserve that history (calling themselves a gastro-brothel), create a unique environment, and host shows that are actually interesting. And their food is great. The Dairy Block is a collective of bars, restaurants, and hotels and has nothing to do with dairy in the year 2021, but they kept the name AND even share the area’s history on their website.

I don’t know anything about Dierks Bentley. I know that he sings country music, both of my sister-in-laws like him, and he once got busted for fishing in Colorado without a license. He says he loves Denver and opening his bar here will give him more opportunities to go to the mountains.

Is he aware that the mountains and Denver are very different places? Can someone do me a favor and ask Dierks literally anything about Denver? Does he know about the history of Five Points just up the road from where his surely fine establishment will be? Hell, someone put him in a car and tell him to drive to Casa Bonita without GPS. (It may be a shithole, but it’s our shithole). Here’s an easier one: using Whiskey Row as a starting point, find Colfax.

Dierks, my dude, you don’t know Denver, and we don’t want your shitty bar. I know our Mayor said it was cool, but we don’t really like him either.

Maybe try Westminster or the town where you got busted fishing.

I know that some of you may accuse me of being snobby or pretentious, so let me just say that I am. And I JUST WANT LIVE JAZZ, DECENT FOOD, AND A LITTLE RESPECT. 

What IS Happening in cities?

My grandparents live in Montrose, Colorado – a smallish town so far west that it may as well be Utah. While they both spent significant portions of their life living in or near the city, they hate coming to Denver or really anywhere near it now.

Too much traffic!

Too many people!

What’s with all the homeless people?


Their life in Montrose consists of keeping things that are strange or uncomfortable away and preserving a warped sense of safety. There is no clearer signal than the number of times they manage to use the word “property” in a conversation. This guy built something that crossed into their property. That guy drove his tractor onto their property. If the phrase “get off my lawn” was a couple of 70-somethings living in Western Colorado, it would be my grandparents.

Fortunately for me, my dad moved away from his Western Colorado upbringing, and I grew up in the suburbs near Denver. I attended college in Downtown Denver, and in my early 20s, I escaped the strip malls, and chain restaurants, moved into an apartment in the Five Points area of Denver. I wanted to be in the action, I wanted more diversity, and I wanted to be around people who cared to talk about anything other than my prospects for marriage and children.

No offense to suburbs. I love a Chili’s.

With all eyes seemingly on cities right now (or at least the ones with Democrats in charge), a lot of people suddenly have strong opinions about what’s happening to our “crumbling” cities despite the fact that they have not recently or ever set foot in an actual city. I now live in the southwest corner of the Capitol Hill neighborhood in Denver. I am just over 1 mile from Downtown Denver. This neighborhood along with the central business district have been the epicenter of protests, marches, and yes, a really bad and getting worse homelessness problem.

When you live in a city, it’s pretty likely, you live in an apartment, where you are in a shared space as soon as you exit your front door. Above you, below you, and next to you, is the place another person calls home. When you step outside, people are buzzing by you on bikes, or walking their dog, or going for an evening run. You may not know anyone’s name, but you are forced to care about their space and their well-being because it is also your space and your well-being. I’ll admit that in the middle of a pandemic, the unavoidable closeness of other people has felt unsettling, but it’s also somewhat comforting.

Here’s the thing… you can’t remove yourself from the situation in a city. You can’t not see the homeless encampments. You can’t not hear the helicopters flying overhead capturing a standoff between protesters and police. You can’t listen to people saying that your home is going to hell in a handbasket and walk away without defending your community and its citizens. You can’t not care. You can try, and I’m certain there are some people getting by blissfully on apathy.

This all adds up to one thing: Empathy. The closeness of others, the diversity of thought and background, and the exposure to struggle create a collective of conscientious and activated people who desire a world where all are included and lifted up. It’s why our citizens show up to help our unhoused neighbors pack their belongings before an impending sweep and then scream (into what feels like a void) at our leaders for a humane solution. In cities we recognize humanity. “Other” doesn’t exist in a city because we couldn’t keep the unfamiliar away if we wanted to. The way we tend to vote isn’t a coincidence.

Some might argue that Denver is barely a city compared to places like New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles. You wouldn’t be wrong. Denver’s population is less than 1/8th the population of New York. Some might argue that a city hardens you, and to a certain degree, you wouldn’t be wrong about that either. Living in a city requires boundary setting and the ability to be independent. Underneath that is the care a city-dweller must have for their small and densely populated corner of the world.

Denver is far from perfect, but Montrose, Colorado has one of the highest suicide rates in the state. There are theories as to why that may be, isolation and lack of resources being just a few of them. I can look outside and see community right in front of me. It’s not scary for other people to be close (except there’s still a pandemic, so 6ft and wear a mask please and thank you), and what the hell is the comfort of home, or “property” as some may call it, if you’re too afraid to see what’s beyond it?



Things I would do if I had all the time 7/23-7/29

A weekly recommendation of things I would do if I had unlimited time– and money in some cases. Maybe I’ll make it to a couple of these things. In any case, report back if you go to any of these events.

Monday 7/23

Yoga Storytime: What a great combination of things I love! Yoga and public libraries. The city of Longmont just got a little cooler. Check this out at the Longmont Public Library on Mondays at 11am.

Next to Normal: Harrison hates community theater. I love it. How did I not know this was happening? Get to Evergreen to see this at Centerstage Theatre! Closes Tuesday 7/24.

Tuesday 7/24

The Girls & Gays Comedy Showcase: I’m close to the local comedy scene because of Harrison’s involvement, and I am always rooting for the comics who are not straight white men. We have plenty of those. Tickets only $5.  Show starts at 8.

Wednesday 7/25

Livin’ in A Ho House, hosted by Felony Misdemeanor: Few things thrill me more than seeing Drag Queens come out of the gay bars and into the mainstream. Drag Queens are artists and incredibly dynamic performers, and Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox is an excellent spot in Downtown Denver. Side note: I wrote a piece for Denver’s (R.I.P.) about some of Denver’s best Drag Queens almost 10 years ago, and Felony was one of my featured queens. Go see her in action.

Thursday 7/26

Into the Woods: Wait, why don’t I have tickets to this? Phamaly Theatre company will be presenting this show at the Space Theatre at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts through August 5th. Phamaly produces shows that feature performers with disabilities, so you will not only be entertained, you will be supporting an excellent organization. Click the link for showtime and ticket information.

Friday 7/27

Denver Summer Brew Fest: Who doesn’t love a good beer festival. This is happening at Mile High Station on Friday and Saturday. I’ll be here Friday representing Shirts on Tap.

Saturday 7/28

Bub Comedy Presents: Dickin’ Around- A Night of Comedy and Trivia: I think Harrison is on this show, but I can’t keep track anymore. This show is at the Dicken’s Opera House in Longmont. Doors open at 7:30. Tickets are $11.

Sunday 7/29

Shakesbeer presents Henry IV Pt. 1: There’s a group in Denver called The Wit’s Shakesbeer that performs abridged versions of Shakespeare plays while drinking with the audience. Go see this. Happening at Alpine Dog Brewing Company at 8pm.

I hope you will find some fun this week. Let me know how it goes. Please contact me if you have an event you think I should include. But remember, this is a list of things that I would do if I had all the time. I won’t recommend just anything. Then we’re getting into advertising territory, and you’d have to pay me for that…. which I am also open to. Let’s just talk.