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LaMark 15: Making Lodo a Little More Welcoming To Us All

Lodo is filled with short skirts and cheap fedoras. Bad dancing and worse pickup lines. Street fights and alley urinations. Those freshly of age or with newly laminated fake IDs pour in to play their version of “grown ups.” Suburbanites and small town tourists look for their real Denver experience amongst this homogenized scene available in any major western city.

Heather Johnson sashays past one of many paintings.
Benn Stebleton

While actual Denver citizens avoid the area in favor of spots with actual local influence. They want conversations and original music. They want a scene that recognizes artistic expression expands beyond Miley Cyrus’ wagging tongue and bouncing ass.

It might be time for those locals to take another look at Lodo. Or at least one spot at 15th and Larimer.

LaMark 15 is standing out amongst its Lodo neighbors. It opened in late March after an extensive renovation. It now has a very classic look, with lots of wood, expansive ceilings, chandeliers, and probably the largest booth in all of Colorado.

It has the feel of an old bar, one with history and character. General Manager Adam Youngblood was looking for that feel. He wanted to bring a little culture and depth to what many have written off as a superficial frat party that somehow had taken over an entire downtown neighborhood.

Youngblood started with establishing a good bar with good staff. The basics are covered at LaMark 15. Friendly, efficient bartenders are responsive to all of your thirsty needs.

Then Youngblood built upon that foundation with the addition of Ashley Barry. Barry bartends, but she also coordinates LaMark 15’s extensive art shows. It is the most impressive collection of local art outside of Denver’s identified art districts.

The art is everywhere in this bar. Currently 18 different artists have original pieces on display. On the walls, the ceiling, behind the bar. And it’s all really good stuff.

Youngblood set the tone with their Grand Unveiling event in early May. He invited in a couple local acoustic musicians to play while artists set up blank canvases on each side of the stage area. At the end of the night the canvasses were completed works of art that were raffled off for charity.

“No one had ever seen what I put together that night,” Youngblood said of the event. He intends to do more events to establish LaMark 15 as unique venue. A showing of tattoo artists’ work is upcoming. There will also be a ‘Mericuh themed costume party for World Cup celebrations. And more live painting and live music. Lots more.

All of the originality is starting to get noticed.

Heather Johnson, a recent transplant from southern Minnesota, came in with a group of friends Saturday night. While some in her group had visited LaMark 15 before, this was Johnson’s first time in the door.

“The art is an attractive feature.” Johnson said when asked why she was at this particular bar amongst the many others in the area. “It’s refreshing to see that.”

Johnson and her friends look forward to coming back. For the art, the music, and the general feel of the place.

Jill Merker, just a few barstools away, also cited the art as a draw for her. Merker admits she doesn’t go out much.

“I can’t stand Lodo. But I like this place. It’s nice, relaxed. It’s not packed. And the bartenders are not douchey,” she said before pointing out a few of her favorite paintings.

Ashley Barry recognizes that those paintings are making her bar stand out. As the curator, she is constantly networking with local artists to bring in new work.

“What keeps me coming back to a bar is the art, seeing the new stuff.” She has a long history in the Denver art scene as a graduate of the Art Institute of Colorado. She is a professional photographer and sculptor. But she is still happy to pour you a shot from behind the bar. Drink it down, then ask her about your favorite piece on the wall. She’ll probably be able to tell you a little about both the work and the artist.

But this is still a Lodo bar. Youngblood recognizes his venue is unique, but it also has to live up to some neighborhood expectations. On weekend nights DJs give the crowd something to dance to, and they do dance. Friday nights you’ll hear more hip hop and dance, while on Saturdays it leans more towards top 40. By midnight, most everyone has been on the dance floor, or created their own dance floor right near their bar stool.

Stop in at LaMark 15 for a happy hour or later drink. They offer an unimaginable variety of gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and other munches courtesy of Kim Cheese. They also connect with neighbors The Drink and Tryst through secret passageways, all Scooby Doo like!

Mention you read this article to Adam Youngblood and get a two for one well or domestic beer!

The bulletpoints:

• LaMark 15. 1324 15th St., Denver, CO.
• Open 6:00 pm-2:00 am daily. Open earlier for special events.
• Kim Cheese gourmet grilled cheese and other tasty comfort foods.
• DJs get started at 10:00 pm Friday and Saturday nights.
• Check their Facebook for new stuff happening frequently.
• Frequently rotating art shows.
• Reach Adam for your events and anything else you’d like to know about LaMark 15.

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