A guide to the hottest nightlife in the Rockies.
February 3, 2004
Well, spend even one evening out on the town and youll find that reputation is well deserved.
People come to Aspen to let their hair down, have a few drinks, lower their inhibitions and make blame the altitude when they make quasi-fools of themselves. Its been happening since the 60s and shows no signs of letting up.
Despite the fact that rent is so high here that a Budweiser can cost upwards of four dollars (or as low as $1 is you hit the right happy hour) there are still a few fun places to let the hair down, rub elbows with beautiful people and even hear some live music.
Aspen is a town of odd contrasts. You can blow hundreds on dinner and call it money well spent, or you can spend $5 on a Popcorn Wagon gyro and figure that was the best food youve had since mom kicked you out of the house.
Were here to help. Since many of the people who come to Aspen have wads of hundreds burning holes in their pockets, well start at the top and work our way down to where the lowly worker bees wet their whistles.
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This place started out as the Ritz and even under the new name continues to be one of the ritziest places to gather. The bar at the St. Regis usually has quite a few beautiful people rubbing elbows and starting social sparks. If you hear a big-name entertainer is in town, chances are theyre at the St. Regis. Piano music is featured at the lobby lounge in the daily in the late afternoons and again at night.
The St Regis is located at 315 East Dean Street at the base of Aspen Mountain. Call (970) 920-3300 for current entertainment listings. Their web address is: http://www.stregisaspen.com.
The Nell is not famous for hosting live music, although if you catch the jazz show youll be surprised at the quality. And its pretty quiet here in the summer. In the winter the hotel lounge has a variety of musicians swing through. The bar at the Nell, newly remodeled and renamed The Greenhouse, is a quiet place to enjoy a romantic, if somewhat expensive drink and the food at the Nell, in its new restaurant Montagna, is among the best in town.
Its also a great place to people watch. In fact, some locals admit they take their out-of-town guests to the Little Nell for that real dose of Aspen chic.
The Little Nell Hotel is located at 675 East Durant Street at the base of Aspen Mountain. (970) 920-4600. http://www.thenell.com.
Dont try to pronounce the name, just get to Syzygy for an elegant atmosphere and live jazz music. Unlike most of Aspens bars this one is UPSTAIRS, thus providing a nice view of some of downtown. The nice bar and lounge is a comfortable setting for classy music and company.
And the jazz is world class.
Syzygy is upstairs at 520 E. Hyman in downtown Aspen. (970) 925-3700.
I wouldnt go to Cooper Street seeking fine acoustics or name acts. On the other hand it doesnt cost to get in, theres no dress code, and you can sometimes, on the weekends, hear a local live band or acoustic musician jamming above the din of one of Aspens most beloved smoky dives.
This isnt the only locals bar left in town, but its one of the few and one of the best.
The two-level bar and burger joint has pool tables upstairs and highly competitive shuffleboard downstairs. Holding the table is a point of honor. You can find fair prices for pitchers and pub-fare food (if they have the ribs, get the ribs). Cooper Street is the place to go if all you got is ten bucks and a pretty face.
Cooper Street is located at 508 E. Cooper. (970) 925-4980.
The Ute used to have live, loud rock music, but a recent dispute with the neighbors has reduced the rocking to the tinkling of a single piano and the occasional strumming of acoustic guitars. If you like piano bar jazz the Ute has a historic mining atmosphere and a nice view of the people walking by.
Get there early for a seat next to the windows that open onto the street.
The Ute City Bar and Grill is across the street from the East end of the Hyman Avenue Mall at 501 E. Hyman. (970) 920-4699.
The Irish know how to slurp stout beers. If you are looking for the right environment to slam Guiness, McStorlies is a great bet. They have all the right stuff: The Guiness is kept separate from the regular beers in its own frig, and they know how to pull the pint.
They have other imports on tap, but you cant go to McStorlies without at putting away at least one Guiness. And dont even dream of ordering a Coors Lite, theyll laugh you right out of the joint. Once in a blue moon the bar has live music, but mostly the prevailing sound is that of Rugby players slamming empty tankards down onto the bar and shouting for more.
McStorlies is downstairs at 308 S. Hunter St. in downtown Aspen. (970) 925-2028.
The ski magazines have taken to calling it the compound because Erics is like three bars in one. There is the main bar, which features microbrews and a great selection of imported beers on tap. There is the pool room with top-quality tables for rent by the hour. And then theres the Cigar Bar where the beautiful people gather on overstuffed couches and wallow in the aroma of expensive smoke and sip icy top-shelf martinis. A barfly could spend a night in each room and never get tired of the selection of babes, bottles and banter.
Erics, like almost all Aspen bars, is down a set of stairs. The bar is right across from the Wheeler Opera House at 315 E. Hyman Avenue in downtown Aspen. (970) 920-4244.
A Playboy magazine pick as one of Americas best bars, the J-Bar is where famous author Hunter S. Thompson headquartered when he ran for Pitkin County Sheriff. You can still see his peyote-fist poster on the wall. Its a classic bar with good food and all the history you can imagine.
Try the J-rita for a margarita you’ll remember — or not, however it turns out (blame the altitude).
Its at 330 E. Main St., on the left side of the hotel. (970) 920-1000