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The Squire Lounge. A New Bar With a Lot of History

Ash Dani and Mark Star negotiate a shot.
Ash Dani and Mark Star negotiate a shot.
Benn Stebleton

It’s Friday night at The Squire Lounge, and a beautiful blond woman is sitting on the bar. Her pants are covered in images of bright flowers. The karaoke DJ is trying to find some way to incorporate all of those flowers into his shot of tequila. He finally gives up on any sort of innovative delivery and just drinks the shot, then pops the lime into his mouth from a hand wrapped below her calf.

Through it all, she only gives him skeptical looks. And laughs. Lots of laughs.

He is Mark Star, karaoke host, and she is Ash Dani, photographer and sculptor. They both identify as Squire regulars.

Many Denver residents still see The Squire as what it was a year ago. That spot packed with scruffy patrons drinking through significant addiction and housing issues. The bathrooms required you to be okay with some indecent exposure. A rigorous hygiene regiment was recommended following each visit.

Then Sudhir Kudva and Steven Alix—owners of the Matchbox and X Bar, respectively—bought the run down little dive at the corner of Colfax and Williams. They shuttered the place and got to work tearing it apart.

They wanted to create a friendly, open space rather than the compartmentalized structure that was there. The pool table had to go, but the shuffleboard stayed. TVs were reduced to two in order to encourage more conversation. The bar was expanded into a more centralized island. All new bathrooms now offer a sanitary and private space. The maze of structure supports was taken out and replaced with barely noticeable posts. The ceiling was pulled way up, back to the original ornamented tinwork.

Now a drinker can make come hither eye contact with almost anyone anywhere in the bar.

Which is exactly what Kudva and Alix want you to do. Their intent is to make a comfortable bar for all locals. They want people to talk to each other, to get to know someone new.

Neither owner expects to become rich off The Squire. Their goals are steered more towards the community. Kudva said their decisions usually start with the question: “What can we do to make it a good bar? We’ve got day jobs, we have other bars. We can make decisions based on the customer, not on profit.”

That motivation is apparent. You can get a $3 pint of local craft brew or $2 hipster beers during the 4 p.m. - 8 p.m. happy hour. The most expensive drink is just around $6.

Whatever drink you order, you will get your money’s worth. Jonna Dolge is the Saturday bartender. She is the only staff who came over from the previous Squire, and she was always the hottest thing in that space. In the new Squire, she puts on lipstick to still be the hottest thing in the bar.

Some patrons come to The Squire just for Dolge’s cocktail skills. Andrea Griffin had journeyed in specifically to enjoy Dolge’s Appletini, Yes, an Appletini at The Squire. But Dolge makes more than the least macho drink ever. Griffin said she would try anything Dolge makes based on her reputation as an exalted mixologist.

Even without the Appletinis, some perceived the new Squire as a gay bar. It is not, but there is a healthy sampling of the LGBT population inside. There is a healthy sampling of the LGBT community throughout Capitol Hill. The bar really is bringing in the neighbors. Blue-collar guys who drink Miller High Life without irony. Couples double dating for a game of shuffleboard. A few people who want to watch whatever is on ESPN. Aspiring singers who find Friday’s karaoke their most comfortable place to try out their chords. People who just want to drink and make a new friend or two.

Griffin’s friend, Valerie Harrison, is new to Denver and came up to Colfax from her fresh home in Governor’s Park. She immediately liked The Squire because “It’s very local.”

Beyond the locals, The Squire seems to have also gained a sizable following in the artistic community. This is likely helped along by the lovely ballerina mural uncovered during renovation. Recently the bar also began displaying the work of local artists. On weekend nights you’ll find the place peppered with talented individuals.

Cat Ackermann, a professional piano player, liked the original Squire, but prefers the renovated version.

“It’s still a dive bar, but this bar seems more fine tuned, more artistically driven,” Ackermann said.

It’s still a baby on the Denver bar scene. As more people check out The Squire for the first time, and others who wrote it off as “that homeless bar” return, its environment will evolve. With the artists and attractive locals it has already brought in as regulars, the place seems on track to become something unique and great.

If you want to see what The Squire looks like now, maybe even talk to a new interesting person or two, here are some options:

  • Happy hour: 4 p.m. - 8 p.m. daily. Some of the best prices in Denver for four full hours of happy.
  • Tuesday night comedy: Sometime around midnight. Funny stuff for night owls.
  • Thursday night: 80’s DJ. Remembering the 80’s wasn’t just Men Without Hats.
  • Friday night: Mark Star Karaoke.
  • Saturday night: Dance! Then drink. Then dance again! House, underground, and stuff like that.

The Squire Lounge is located at 1800 E. Colfax Avenue (Colfax and Williams). It’s open daily from 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Food is not served, but patrons are welcome to bring in meals from the many nearby Colfax take out spots. Walk in with an extra large pizza and increase your popularity with each shared slice.

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