Ever since the Yard of Ale closed in 2009, there hasn’t been a dedicated gay bar in Boulder. Enter DV8 Distillery  which is somewhere between a gay bar and Burning Man. DV8 has spent the last 6 years cultivating a scene where the LGBTQ community can find connections, friends, and lovers, without having to travel to Denver.

However, DV8 wants to stress that they aren’t exclusively a gay bar. If anything, they say they are technically a queer bar since that’s what the owners identify as. However, DV8 is a safe space for people of any sexuality or gender to feel protected, listened to, and celebrated. Whether it’s a gay bar or a queer bar, doesn’t really matter, since they welcome anyone.  

It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight; they want to be the spot where people from different backgrounds can come together and form lasting bonds and memories at an encouraging place that’s free from judgment. 

In many ways, the attitude of DV8 is that of European techno clubs, where many started out as gay bars, but welcome anyone who accepts that what happens within its walls is not only accepted but protected (not to mention the house and techno that emanates from their sound system).

This past June DV8 decided to announce to the world that they are a queer-owned venue and exist as a space where people from all sexual dispositions can come get down, without prejudice. Now they are in the final stages of their remodel and are opening the doors back to the public after taking February off.

Some may say that it’s surprising that Boulder hasn’t had a gay bar, considering how progressive it is towards LGBTQ policy. For instance, Boulder hits the highest score possible on the Municipal Equality Index, which examines how a city’s laws and policies impact the lives of LGBTQ residents. Additionally, in 2015, Advocate.com named Boulder as the 10th queerest city in America.

Between The Yard of Ale closing and DV8 announcing that they were a dedicated queer space, the closest thing there was to a Boulder gay bar is the Facebook group, Boulder, CO Guerilla Gay Bar, which takes over bars for a night, once a month. However, post-pandemic, these look to be far less frequent. 

DV8 is a Boulder distillery that describes itself as a “safe space for unsafe practices.” Bourbon whiskey is produced alongside vodka, gin, and rye whiskey, all of which are made in-house. Additionally, they host events like raves, concerts, DJs, and radical-art installations rarely found in places outside of Burning Man. The club also hosts comedy shows, drag exhibits, burlesque performances, and other forms of entertainment that would tickle even Lord Dionysus. 

What separates DV8 events from others is how much of an immersive and artistically integrated experience many of them are. An example of this is their monthly Dance ‘Til You Glow parties, which pair DJs, aerialists, dancers, and an immersive light and sound experience, with professional painters who decorate the crowd in glow-in-the-dark paint. Each party has a different theme, like their Dirty Santa one, which, for one night only, added two more X’s to XMas. 

Every quarter, they have more specialized parties, such as their Valhalla Winter Ball, which featured Viking clad pleasure-seekers tossing axes, spinning fire, and having their fortune’s told to the pulse from some of the finest local DJs. This event will also feature a Norse-themed drag show.

These parties often spill out into their sizable parking lot and patio area, creating an outdoor party atmosphere that lacks in Boulder. And since it’s out in a warehouse on 49th and Pearl, there are no residential housing that would call to complain, allowing for the party to go well into the night.

Boulder nightlife took a hit ever since the Lazy Dog closed and the Biergarten ripped out its stage. To fill this void, DV8 is in the process of adding an 11 by 16-foot stage, with upgraded sound, professional lighting, and enough infrastructure in order to host events more frequently. This new stage will allow them to host full bands more frequently, and attract touring talent. They hope once everything is finished, they will be hosting events six nights a week. 

Co-founder Rawley Gunnels say about the renovations, “I’m simply thrilled to be bringing a stage to Boulder that will be dedicated to local musicians, queer artists, and mid sized talent that would otherwise struggle to find a stage to play on. There’s such a need for a venue dedicated to local art and I’m humbled that DV8 gets to fill this gap!”

photos via: DV8