Denver’s Mercury Café: Swing the Night Away
Denverites and visitors looking for a fun way to dance the night away can find a hip time in a place where swing is king, big band music is the norm and suspenders are still flashy attire – the Mercury Café.
The Mercury Café, which focuses on dance, food, arts and expression, started in the 1970s in Indian Hills, taking root in 1990 at its current location, 2199 California St., near lower downtown Denver.
While the Mercury Café offers a specific local poetic and organic food scene, it’s probably best known to the public as Denver’s premier swing club.
On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, eager dancers – from newbies to the pros – enter the café’s side door and walk up the stairs to the café’s active second floor.
The upper room has well-danced-on wooden floors surrounded by small round tables, complete with fresh roses as centerpieces and seating for two (or as many as can fit around the table). Lights and rose vines are strung around the room, casting a romantic atmosphere, and the jazzy swing music brings a hip ‘30s-era vibe. The corner water bar is complimentary – swinging and jiving can make you thirsty.
The mood is light and friendly, and the hand of community spirit seems to rests on every dancer. The crowd ranges from people who are ready to show off their moves to first-timers eager to learn. The Lindy Hop and East Coast Swing (a.k.a. the Jitterbug) rule the floor while the music plays.
Although these are partner dances, would-be dancers don’t have to round up a partner to go. The Mercury Café’s swing dance community is a key part of what makes the café’s dance nights so successful. Those who know their stuff love to teach those who don’t and are always ready to invite someone new onto the floor.
The Mercury Café also offers lessons before open dance on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, taught by professional dancer and 23 Skidoo founder Tiffiny Wine. Dancers can pay a $30 fee for a series of four classes or pay a $10 drop-in fee per session. These prices include open dance starting at 8 p.m. Those coming for just the DJ powered open dance pay $6.
Sundays are the biggest attraction, with a live swing band setting the tone of the evening. Dance classes are offered at 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday open dance with a different live band every week starts at 8 p.m., and the $9 cover charge includes the pre-dance lessons.
Swing is not the extent of the café’s offerings. Belly dancing on Mondays, Salsa on Wednesdays and Tango on Fridays add spice to the already rich dance menu.
The Mercury Café also has a strong arts and organic food scene. The first-floor café and performance area allows visitors to munch on a breakfast, lunch or dinner of fresh organic food, offering such selections as tofu burritos, the Alamosa Striped Bass Florentine (poached eggs, wilted spinach on toast, and Hollandaise sauce, served with grilled potatoes), and the Mixed Grill plate (chicken, elk, black forest ham, mushrooms and peppers with a black bean sauce).
Drink selections are also tasty from wines and beers, to coffees and brandies – all local and organic like the food.
During the evenings and into the night, live performances from the locals and guests range from saxophones and guitars to poetry and dramatic presentations.
Poetry slams (readings) happen on the weekend. Fridays feature open-mic poetry readings and Sundays offer live music before the weekly poetry slam at 8 p.m.
A glance at the café’s calendar on its website shows the wide array of workshops and performances happening each week. Each activity, especially the happenin’ swing nights, never fails to draw people in and make them feel like part of the community.
If You Go
The Mercury Café
2199 California St.
Denver, Colorado 80205
Bring cash to pay for parking and dancing; credit cards are not accepted. Parking costs $3 during the day and $2 after 4 p.m. and on weekends
23 Skidoo 23skidooland.com