Club 404 Restaurant and Lounge has been shuffling Denver south siders through its doors on South Broadway for ages. It was SOBO before there was a SOBO. The sign outside is one of those classic roadside antiquities that you might find in a museum somewhere or in a sign graveyard in the desert outside Las Vegas. It acts as a perfect dive bar marker: decrepit enough to make casuals move on by to the fancy Hornets and such down the street, but showing enough dated class to give an inkling that it might be worthwhile stopping.
I am not sure why, but walking into the 404 I felt like I was stepping on board a 1970’s pleasure cruise. There was entertainment on one side of the boat in the form of some comedian, and I am sure there was a shag-covered keyboard over there somewhere as well; T-bones were on special in the restaurant for the blue hairs, the bar was filled with patrons you could easily characterize as scallywags, and to get to the bathroom you had to walk through the galley. Bartenders served up on the cheap from behind the sexy vinyl covered bar (And not only the bar is covered in vinyl, the entire ceiling is covered in vinyl. I imagine that in one of the back rooms they have a massive stash of Liquid Leather, just to keep the place together) that is backed by a glorious ancient wooden back bar that has a patina coming from many a hard voyage. It provides the perfect spot to kick off your topsiders and get a drink with an umbrella. Of course if you do show up in topsiders and start ordering Piña Coladas, your fellow patrons may choose to pick a fight with you, as they did when I was there (luckily they were arguing with each other and not with me, since even though I may be able to swear like a sailor I cannot fight like one), so keep your wits about you and be ready to disembark at the next port of call if necessary.
The Club 404 Lounge sets sail daily from 404 South Broadway.
My relationship with dives is kind of like the relationship I have with my kids. Having that first breakfast burrito at Charlie's Silver Fox is not entirely unlike the joy of watching my boy ride his bike for the first time. Sometimes they both can be a source of happy surprises (like getting a free beer at Mr. A's). Sometimes they give you indigestion (a $1.10 scoop from Little Panda, with aplomb), or worse, just plain make you sick. Each also can disappoint: this week The Sports Station made me feel like I just found poop on the bathroom floor. I have visited The Station before, and found it to be an enjoyable stop. It was a nice mix of worthless barroom banter, crap on tv, and an amenable owner who is more than happy to sit at the bar with you and blow that evening's take on drinks for himself. So you can imagine my chagrin upon hearing that there was a shooting there recently. Here's what a semi-reputable news source had to say earlier this week.
This just goes to show that you don't need to hop a plane for some exotic locale or find a lonely stretch of trail up in the mountains in the search for adventure. Just head down to your local dive and watch what happens.
I decided long ago that the monotony of my daily routines weren't going to cut it long term. Sure, I still float through with some routine (wake up, shower, shave, clothes, hair, dog, food, boy), but I try to bust out whenever possible. Shake things up a bit. I'm not talking about anything transcendental, or finding Jesus or any nonsense like that, just exploring my surroundings a little bit and jumping out of the comfort of the routine. That's where dives come in. Denver is full of them. Places you can go that get your senses humming and make you feel maybe a little uncomfortable. There's that bar that serves a mean pizza and sits across from the holding facility for the county jail. There's that restaurant where you can order up a Head taco, if you can scrape together a little Spanish. When you see these places, you usually find yourself thinking, 'Who goes there?'. I do.