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Pour one out for The Irish Snug

Hey, people. It’s Bree.

In what has unfortunately become a common occurrence in this newsletter, I’m here to talk about the untimely demise of yet another beloved local business. This time, it’s about a bar – The Irish Snug. It closed last week.

The Snug was located at Colfax and Marion for nearly 18 years — a lengthy feat for any local business, but especially one in Denver, where we find ourselves clinging to anything that can last more than five years. The Snug wasn’t famous because it was a dive (far from it), though at first glance it did have a sort of kitschy aesthetic appeal. It was an “Irish”-themed bar after all, one that apparently did a pretty good job of replicating a Dublin-esque pub, right in the heart of Denver.

As Molly Martin at Westword recounts, the Snug may not have been Denver’s first official “Irish” bar, but it was definitely in at the beginning of a trend when it opened way back in 2004. They served an extensive list of Irish Whiskey brands, hosted a daily happy hour that included Guinness on tap, and had a damn good “bar food” menu that offered bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie, and other really delicious but hardly Irish fare — like my fave, the grilled cheese. Oh, and it was the place in town to watch the World Cup.

For several years, I worked in the offices above the Snug (we called it our “Conference Room B”,) and when St. Patty’s Day rolled around, I’d start hearing fiddles playing outside my window at 11am on a Friday, as their annual Capitol Hill Hooley was revving up. Sadly, when the pandemic hit in 2020, it was just days before the Hooley was set to unfurl along the block. The bagpipes and U2 cover band never got to play. But in the context of all the moments I’ve had on Colfax, the Snug’s (pre-pandemic) St. Patrick’s Day bashes were tame.

This is part of the pub’s story that’s hard to ignore — the Irish Snug was a bar on Colfax. Unlike other establishments where I’ve seen actual skinheads descend on a dance floor and start throwing bar stools or been accosted by a man in a bathrobe, shower cap, and slippers trying to holler at me, the Irish Snug was actually a respite from those Colfaxian elements. I’ll miss it dearly because it wasn’t very Colfax-like at all (though I’m sure longtime patrons and staff could tell some stories.)

Speaking of the lore of Colfax, it’s hard to talk about the Snug without mentioning the other tenant famous for occupying that historic structure at Colfax and Marion  – Sid King’s Crazy Horse Bar. Though the strip club closed in the early ‘80s, the wild ringmaster of what he preferred to call a venue for “old-fashioned burlesque with slapstick comedy” has long captured many a Denverite’s imagination. (Mine included — I wrote about the legendary King many years ago, and learned that the strip club owner was a regular donor to Children’s Hospital, of all places.)

Whatever the space becomes next, I hope it is half as inviting and lovely as that ol’ Irish pub. It was the perfect place for comedy shows, political mixers, jam sessions, and of course, brunch. If you’re hoping for a second coming of the strip club days of Colfax, I can tell you that at the very least, Sid King’s famous Googie-style neon sign still lives, and may soon have a new home inside another Colfax establishment. More on that later.

— Bree Davies, Host of City Cast Denver and Official Tourism Booster for Old Colfax


🏈 RIP to a local sports legend: Les Shapiro covered local sports on TV and the radio for more than 30 years. He passed away on Saturday after a five-year battle with lung cancer. Former Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan remembered his friend Shapiro’s insatiable curiosity in the Denver Post: “Everyone once in a while, he would say, ‘Hey can I come over to your house and watch a game? I’d like to know more.’ So we would watch football games together. The thing about Les is that he always wanted to learn, about sports in general.” 

🦠 Omicron has already peaked in Denver: One local health official says that the new, more contagious variant of the virus peaked in Denver around Jan. 10. The number of new cases remains high, but has been “steadily decreasing over the last two weeks,” she told Denverite. 

 👉What you can do: If you’re not fully vaccinated, schedule an appointment for a first, second, or third shot here. Also, pick up a free KN95 mask from any Denver rec center. 

🎿 Outdoor recreation trade show draws smaller crowds: Amid ongoing talks about potentially moving the biannual show somewhere else, Outdoor Retailer’s Snow Show opened last week at the convention center downtown. Ed Sealover with the Denver Business Journal reports that only 350 exhibitors are on hand to show off the latest and greatest in outdoor recreation products, down from a thousand-plus at pre-pandemic Snow Shows. Organizers say they expect attendance to bounce back after the pandemic, while one industry leader predicts a shift toward smaller, more focused trade shows.

Local Starbucks employees push for unionization: One Buffalo, New York location has already unionized and more than 30 others across the country have petitioned to do the same, including one in Superior, Colorado, and, as of last week, the location at Colfax and Milwaukee. Twenty of 26 employees at the Colfax location signed the petition, with concerns ranging from low pay to violent customers. “People make jokes about ‘Karens’ at Starbucks, but it is very much a real thing we’re dealing with on a daily basis,” one employee told Denverite

🎧 LISTEN: Can Denver’s Tourist Trap of an Aquarium Treat Animals — and Employees — With Dignity?: All is not well at the Downtown Aquarium, at least according to current and former employees who shared their experiences with Westword reporter Catie Cheshire. Host Bree Davies talks with Cheshire about her recent investigation (and Westword cover story), including her undercover trip to the aquarium’s restaurant. They discuss the aquarium’s unique regulatory situation, the current owners (they run a chain of seafood restaurants!), and what, if anything, can be done to clean up this mess.