The history of the Lion's Lair in Denver, complete with photos
I admit it: I could not nail down the dates for The Lion’s Lair’s original opening at 2022 E. Colfax Ave. — or exactly when the longtime bar changed names over the years — because that information didn’t seem to exist.
I wrote as much in my original article about the legendary dive and music club, which published in The Denver Post on Jan. 3 and The Know on Jan. 4. But thanks to reader feedback (and with a strong dose of humbleness) I’ve verified several names and dates, as well as updating and correcting the original story in print and online.
The bad news: Most Denver media outlets that have written about the Lion’s Lair in recent years — and even the bar’s owners, who have run it for a quarter-century — have repeatedly gotten it wrong.
RELATED: The Lion’s Lair, legendary Denver dive and punk haven, faces extinction
That even the business’ owners are fuzzy about the building’s history illuminates the hazy beginnings of modern-day Denver institutions, where incomplete liquor licenses and colorful characters create, or good-naturedly feed, mythologies. (See Denverite’s excellent exploration of the myth about Playboy Magazine calling Colfax Avenue “The longest, wickedest street in America.”)
The good news: In the process of setting the record straight with Colfax Avenue historian Jonny Barber, Leslie Twarogoswki (whose grandfather, Jerry Friedland, owned the club the 1950s and early ’60s), and Save the Signs founder Corky Scholl, I’ve run across dozens of gorgeous photos for businesses at and around 2022 E. Colfax. We’ve picked a few for a slideshow, attempting to date them as accurately as possible (although, even the people who took or own the photographs don’t have dates on many of them).
For the record, here’s the most updated timeline of 2022 E. Colfax Ave., as described by Barber, Twarogowski and Scholl, and checked against their historical records:
1926: JB Jr. Nellegar Autos (earliest available record)
1927-1928: Capital Motor Co.
1929: Capitol Motor Co. (note spelling change of Capitol)
1930: vacant building
1931: De Berry Garment Co.
1933: GF Johnson Women’s Wear
1934: Alvin T. Johnson Women’s Wear
1935-1936: Chas Gibboney takes over building as restaurateur; later operated by Frank Banta (business name unknown)
1937-1938: The Salad Bowl
1939: The Skol Inn
1940-1955: Aladdin Tavern
1956-1962: Playboy Lounge
1963-1967: The Playroom
1968-1971: Aladdin Lounge
1972-1973: Lyon’s Lair, after the new owner John Lyons.
1974: The Lion’s Lair
While you’re doing all this historical appreciating, check out the Lair’s GoFundMe campaign, which seeks to save the bar from closure amid continuing coronavirus shutdowns, at gofundme.com/f/save-the-world-famous-lions-lair.
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