Sean Beckwith: Aspen’s dearth of dive bars |

Sean Beckwith: Aspen’s dearth of dive bars

A certain species is nearing the endangered list is Aspen. No, it’s not some random shrew or marmot or ground squirrel. Although if it was, you could bet that varmint would soon get the Punxsutawney Phil treatment multiplied by 50. Parades, photo ops with the mayor, fashion shows, Garments for the Marmots and other rallies would get Aspen’s residents in a letter-to-the-editor writing tizzy.

But I’m not seeing the support I’d like to for the dwindling population I’m referring to.

And that population is dive bars. You know, those glorious, dimly lit places where patrons drink beer out of dirty tap lines, take shots of well liquor or sip cocktails with two, maybe three ingredients max. Think vodka sodas, gin and tonics, Jack and cokes, Bud heavies, PBRs, Yukon Jack shots or perhaps some Jose Cuervo if you’re feeling fancy.

You know you’re in a proper dive bar when you see an electronic dartboard accompanied by pieced together darts with varying degrees of bent tips. You know you’re in a dive bar when the only version of karaoke is a bunch of drunk guys in a corner booth belting out Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” You know you’re in a dive bar when you pick a table a little too close to the bathroom and get occasional wafts of urine odor. You know you’re in a dive bar when you can put your fist through the wall after a heated foosball loss and they either don’t notice it or don’t care enough to fix it.

Tying one on at a dive bar is liberating because it’s a dark, dungy, dirty place. You’re already in the slop, so why not roll around in the muck with the other malcontents?

What’s rapidly taking the place of these fine businesses is something sinister. When you walk into a drinking establishment and the guy behind the bar looks like he just left a shift at wherever blacksmiths used to work, you should turn around a leave. Craft beer is one thing; muddling, above-the-shoulder drink shaking and fruit shaving is another tragic thing altogether. Don’t get me wrong. I like a well-crafted cocktail; I just want it in less than 15 minutes and for less than $15. A bar should be a bar and not a place to showcase your bitters collection.

The solution to adding more dive bars into an expensive town is difficult. A good dive doesn’t start out as such. It begins as a well-intentioned gathering place for people to enjoy a few alcoholic beverages and slowly erodes into a grimy location of debauchery where the stories add as much character as the graffiti in the bathroom. Asking someone to pony up Aspen-rate rent to watch their shiny new toy gradually get defiled by gobs of inebriated patrons is like asking me to buy a new snowboard and let Jerrys ride it into the dirt while I’m forced to shell out loot to tune it.

Other than finding a rich person, befriending them, conning them into opening a bar and subsequently destroying it, I don’t have many answers. A Kickstarter or GoFundMe campaign is an option. If Sylvester Stallone can convince Americans that Expendables 1, 2 and 3 were a good idea, then maybe I can get some people to toss some beer money toward a drink-worthy cause.

Then again, the same crowd I’m targeting spends most of their cash on cheap beer, weed and cigarettes. I’m not sure how one motivates that crowd of hammered people without drugs, sex or more booze. I guess I could just go Poopsy Bellows at a few choice locations in hopes of tainting them to the point of abandonment like a defunct Detroit auto factory. Then all that’s left to do is get in there before a bunch of hipsters start serving drinks in mason jars. But having said that, public defecation is a line even I refuse to cross.

And we’ve reached the juncture where I end the column or creep closer to getting fired. Time to get a cold one; now if I just knew where to do that.

Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Reach him at