Denver’s Best Juke Joints

The term “juke joint” emerged from the African-American culture in the South, think a ramshackle blues bar in Mississippi in the 1940s. These were also called “barrelhouses” or “shotgun shacks” and they were places where you could listen and dance to music, drink, and maybe even gamble.

Cruise Room

Although it was all about live music back in the day, there is now nostalgia for these music vending machines, where you can select a song by putting money in the slot and then the corresponding number and letter combination.

Today in Denver a “juke joint” might just be a bar with an old jukebox or a small dive bar with live music. Sometimes there is no fee to use the jukebox and other times you’ll need a little cash. Plan to stop by one of these classic watering holes and see how they stack up with the nostalgic concept of a juke joint:

The Cruise Room (1600 17th St.) is so stylish that it seems to be the opposite of those original roadside shacks offering a place to swig some moonshine and let loose wherever the chairs were cleared away. Bathed in a pink-hued lighting with cushy booths modeled on a cruise ship, the Cruise Room does have a jukebox. So order that martini and play some 45s!

Exterior of

For a far grittier night out, slide into the Lion’s Lair Lounge (2022 E. Colfax Ave.) for happy hour to select some tunes on their jukebox. They have live music, comedy, or performance every night so you’ll need to get there before the show starts if you want to have some jukebox fun.

On South Broadway, the Skylark Lounge (140 S. Broadway) has a jukebox that features rockabilly, swing, and big band music. This two-story bar has live music, space for dancing, a poolroom, and is decorated for fans of vintage cinema. Once you’ve heard a song so many times on the jukebox, consider singing it yourself during their karaoke night on Wednesdays.

Don’s. Photo by By Courtney Drake-McDonough

Head for a dive bar for some drinks and classic jukebox choices at PS Lounge (3416 E. Colfax Ave.), where each lady who enters is given a rose. This is a cash-only establishment so come prepared. Kick back in a vinyl booth and listen to tunes on the non-digital jukebox.

Don’s Club Tavern (723 E. 6th Ave.) is another dive bar, in fact one of the city’s oldest since first opening in 1947. Despite the old school style, at some point this place invested in a fancy high-tech jukebox so whatever song you want to hear, it’s available on this music machine.

If being dimly lit qualifies a bar as a juke joint, the High Lonesome (3360 Navajo St.) makes the cut. Instead of TVs, this place offers booths for a conversation, a jukebox, and a pool table. A full menu of cocktails is available, and they’re known for their whiskey selection. With no kitchen, this is a place to stop for a drink before or after your dinner.