Tooey’s Off Colfax
1521 Marion Street
Denver, CO 80218

“You’ll never leave this bar with your dignity intact”, the bartender said as he slid a Lone Star and shot to a friend of ours.

Kelly took another sip of her cider when I gestured toward Marion Street outside the bar window.

“Is it me or has that guy with the green duffle bag just keep walking passed the bar, up and down Marion, every 15 minutes or so? It’s getting pretty ‘Truman Show’ out there…”

We were sitting at the bar and our local watering hole: Tooeys Off Colfax. Kelly finished her pint of cider and ordered a Newcastle. I have finished my whiskey and moved on to a glass of Montenegro. Our friend finished his shot, turned around, and glanced out the window at the tall lanky man with the bag strolling past.

“The guy with the green BUM bag? Yeah, he’s been around for a couple weeks. One of the ‘Off Colfax Players’. Kind of homeless, but not crazy enough for the real Colfax as of yet.”

We’ve been Tooey’s regulars for the last couple years. We’ve had good nights there, we’ve had bad nights there, we’ve had incredible nights there, we’ve had several art shows there, several 30 MILES OF CRAZY! stories have been set there; in the end, we’ve probably spent way too much time there. No matter what’s going on when we walk into this bar, we are guaranteed a good drink from a great bartender and conversations covering everything from World War I, Shakespeare, the pros and cons of the pot economy, the merits of any numbers of the bottles of liquor on the back shelf, and which hobo came around during the day. Doesn’t matter, though – when you become a regular at a bar, it’s your second home, and the rest of the regulars are family.

“You’ll never leave this bar with your dignity intact”, the bartender said as he slid a Lone Star and shot to a friend of ours.

It’s hard to pin down and define what kind of bar Tooey’s (named after the owner’s cat) actually is. Aside from its close proximity to our place, this mystery is one of the reasons we like it so much and keep coming back. Is it a dive bar? Not really, though most of the regulars are beer-and-a-shot people. Is it a cocktail lounge? Not really, though Ryan N. has put together a decent cocktail menu as well as a fine selection of scotches, whiskeys, and a full shelf of local and regional boozes behind the bar. Is it a sports bar? Not really, though they have a screened projector TV and infrequently show a game or two if there is enough enthusiasm from the regulars. Is it a venue? Not really, though bands and DJs play there frequently (We highly recommend Denver Vintage Reggae Society (DVRS) events as well as the blues-infused ‘Biscuit Lunch’ nights.)

No… the only thing Tooey’s should claim to be is just a great neighborhood bar with a cross section of widely divergent regulars from the neighborhood. This is the bar that, when the bartender sees you walking in, they have your beer already waiting for you. When you can simply ask for ‘A Cocktail’ and they will know exactly what you would like. Sure, there may be an internet jukebox (which are becoming way too frequent in many bars), but you can make that work for you. After a couple rounds, Tooey’s is the only place where the regulars try to out-do one another in music wars in an attempt to find the weirdest (and sometimes most annoying) songs to play. You may hear a cross section of Edith Piaf, Nick Cave, Dropkick Murphys (ok… that was one of mine), Charles Trenet, Duke Ellington, The Melvins, Lesley Gore, and the Muppet version of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’ (Christ… I had Chicago’s ‘You’re the Inspiration’ running through my head for three days after the last music battle. Damn you, Dale.)

Honestly, the best example of why we love this bar is this: most Sunday afternoons the regulars get together and have a pot luck buffet. Sometimes it’s themed, most times it’s not. It’s just a moment in the week were we get together, share a moment, and meal with each other… like a family… which is what your best bar friends are.


Tooeys Tony_New