Even before she turned 21 a few months ago, Denver drag queen Minerva asked bartenders and managers at her venues to mark her hand with a big black cross.
“I wanted to make sure they weren’t trying to serve me because it only takes one person to (ruin) it for everyone,” said Minerva, a 9-year veteran of the drag business who has tight schedule of performances from 21 years old scheduled around Denver PrideFest this weekend.
Denver’s glut of craft brewers and the ubiquitous legal cannabis trade make it hard for sober and underage Denver residents to often find it hard to find events that suit them.
Particularly in the LGBTQ community, where parties, nightlife and mass gatherings have long been part of a culture of solidarity, it’s only in recent years that family events have been paid the same as alcohol-related events, the programmers say.
But completely sober options have taken center stage in the wake of the pandemic both in Colorado and across the country as non-alcoholic cocktails, sober bars and all-ages music events have opened spaces and festivals for people 21 and older to larger and older ones. diverse LGBT audience.
Minerva, now 21 and able to play anywhere, has noticed how the trend has quickly spread to Denver’s gay bars. When she started performing professionally in 21-only bars and clubs at the age of 18, she couldn’t afford to alienate would-be programmers, as important as they were to aspiring artists. She cared more about protecting the venue than entertaining—something her adult counterparts don’t have to worry about.
At these sober LGBTQ events, violating a liquor license is not an issue. Some have always been that way, simply rebranded as “sobriety friendly” to keep up with the trend. Others are responding to the explosion of interest in the sober-curious culture, in turn creating Google friendly search and marketing terms for families and those in recovery.
June 10 “Oh my stars!” The monthly skate date is back with its latest “sobriety-friendly, family-friendly Pride event.” (The series, produced by Rainbow Dome at the Rollerdome in Denver, returns July 8; rainbow dome.com for more). On Saturday, June 25, the Colorado Historic Center is also hosting a “Mild Wild Pride Event” designed to reach the broader LGBTQ demographic that was previously invisible in Pride’s educational programs.
“Everyone aged 13 and over is encouraged to come for a sober evening before the Pride parade the following morning!” This is stated in the message of the organizers (historycolorado.org).
Denver Pridefest June 24-26 at Civic Center Park, which is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people as it returns from the pandemic, is also launching its first 18+ sober area “serving soft drinks for those choosing sobriety” , according to The Center on Colfax, the state’s largest LGBT organization. This is an even narrower target audience than the crowd of all ages that is welcome at the festival as a whole.
It helps sober patrons feel served, advocates and programmers say, as opposed to being forgotten in favor of patrons buying alcohol – the latter is a source of income built into the business models of clubs and bars.
As noted, Denver is an emerging mecca for larger sober events, with a new music program from the sober community The Phoenix, which uses the Send Me a Friend app for sober and recovering music lovers and musicians, as well as events such as Sundown. Colorado, which debuted last year as the state’s first sober music festival. Multi-day festivals like Denver’s Underground Music Showcase are also dedicated to “sober bars and other resources for artists struggling with substance abuse,” including LGBTQ and non-binary musicians and music lovers, organizers say.
In April, veteran Denver singer-songwriter Jen Korte also launched her Clearheads program at the trendy Fort Greene bar in Globeville, calling it a “drink-free hangout” made possible by support from the Denver Music Development Fund.
But in addition to the sober bar culture here – Awake is one of the businesses currently considering franchising – there’s a larger LGBTQ scene that has always remained off the radar of partying in Colorado. One such event is the all-ages drag series at Mile High Comics, which has drawn praise and outcry on the first Sunday of every month since its debut in March 2019.
Colorado’s drag culture for all ages is also showcased in Discovery+’s Generation Drag, which debuted June 1 and follows five young queens as they prepare for the annual Dragutante competition in Denver. It exists entirely outside of Denver’s LGTBQ bar culture, but a foothold there is still important for young performers in the city’s hyper-competitive drag scene, which has produced two “RuPaul’s Drag Champions” (Evie Oddley and Willow Pill).
“I have a lot of family with these bars,” said Minerva, who had already played numerous gigs at prestigious venues like Tracks, X Bar and Hamburger Mary’s before being allowed to drink. “I consider Tracks my home because everyone there greeted me when I was 18 and supported me all the time. Now I have my own show[Hell in Heels, which debuted last month]and it’s very successful and people even come to my product line.”
Sign up for our weekly In The Know newsletter to receive entertainment news straight to your inbox.