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More than a bar: Denver space working to create inclusivity, spark conversation
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Lauren Beno (left) and Denise Day (right) stand at Town Hall Collaborative, the inclusive space they opened three months ago.

DENVER — In an unassuming warehouse nestled between art galleries, breweries and restaurants on Santa Fe Drive, Lauren Beno and Denise Day had a vision.

A community space. Not a bar, coffee shop or event center, but some combination of the three, with a welcoming feel for those who’ have felt excluded in more “traditional,” establishments.

The pair’s conversation about opening a business began in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the world and forced the two women to reconsider the way communities gather. Beno and Day were both working in Boulder at the time and sought a home somewhere in the Denver metro area for underrepresented communities to enjoy each other’s company without fear.

Town Hall Collaborative is more than a bar

After almost two years of searching, Beno and Day settled on Town Hall Collaborative. Located at 525 Santa Fe Drive in a former industrial warehouse in the Santa Fe Arts District, the building is decorated with art from local artists, a large stage, several seating areas rooms for group discussions, and a bar with coffee, alcohol and mocktail options.

“Our vision has always remained true, which was about creating space for people who don’t feel like they always have spaces, whether it’s because of gender or sexuality or race or ethnicity,” Day said. “It’s about welcoming and inviting people regardless of who you are.”

Part of creating an inclusive space, the two owners said, was being intentional in deciding what to sell. The business serves coffee and spirits from women-owned companies, and both owners wanted to ensure those who don’t drink alcohol had a plethora of options for drinks that go beyond a basic soda or flavored water.

“When you build a cocktail menu, it’s so easy to look at that menu and just remove the alcohol. There are so many flavors that are delicious without the alcohol,” Day said. “It’s not that complicated; it just takes time and effort.”

While Town Hall Collaborative has all the markings of a traditional bar or coffee shop: tables and seating, an open floor and a stage — the owners see it as anything but “traditional.”

In its three months of existence, the establishment has hosted art markets, book clubs, karaoke, drag performances, game nights, open mics and a host of other events aiming to bring various groups together. Day and Beno also hope to hold lectures, classes, workshops and an open forum to have hard conversations and learn from those with different backgrounds.

A progress pride flag hangs in Town Hall Collaborative to let guests know all are welcome. 

“Town Hall Collaborative was really born out of this desire and need to create space that was not just focused on a bar but really focused on activism,” Day said. “Town Hall was really about having a space to gather either for fun or to have hard conversations.”

The pair settled on the name “Town Hall Collaborative,” after deciding they wanted the space’s patrons to involve themselves in politics and help shape the world around them.

“We’re taking back this idea that politics is outside of us as a community,” Day said. “We, as a community and as a group of people, need to be involved and we wanted to make space for that.”

On separate, personal levels, both owners said they know how it feels to be excluded from more traditional bars and coffee shops. Day’s son has Autism Spectrum Disorder, and throughout his life, Day said she has noticed how few establishments are accessible for people with disabilities, which Town Hall Collaborative hopes to change.

“We always said that we would be a space that was safe and inclusive and we would do everything in our power to make it that way,” Day said. “Communities are meant to be together and to gather together and challenge each other, and there aren’t enough spaces that are intentional in doing that.”

While the location in the Santa Fe Arts District was something of a lucky coincidence, the owners said the space also hopes to connect artists and help them share their work with the community.

“To have a space where you can come listen to a lecture on race, gender or sexuality and also listen to live music and have trivia or karaoke, I feel like that’s not only encompassing of how I feel and show up in this world, but also what a lot of my friends and connections are looking for,” Beno said. “For me, creating different communities has always been really important because I think I’m also into a lot of different things.”


Alison Berg is a multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at alisonberg@rmpbs.org.

Jeremy Moore is a senior multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at jeremymoore@rmpbs.org.

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