Denver, you have a drinking problem.

bovinemetropolisI’ve just returned from another weekend getaway to Denver, and once again I’m completely appalled by the use of alcohol there by putative adults. I’ve written about this here before, and last night’s exposure to pathological drinking was pretty epic.  To wit:

  • Waiting to check into our swank “boutique hotel,” Magnolia Hotel, the guest ahead of us commented that “I’m not drunk!. . . at least not yet.
  • We had a terrific supper at Euclid Hall, where we sat at the bar right in front of the kitchen and where one of the fun, young chefs slipped us a sample of the Pad Thai Pig Ears while we were waiting for our orders.  After supper I went to the bathroom where at 8:20 p.m. I was treated to the sounds of someone puking up her beer.  I repeat:  it was 8:20 p.m.
  • At 9:20 a.m., I got into an elevator in which I could smell that someone was still metabolizing alcohol from last night.  Eeewww.  Seriously?  Can you just stay in your room until you sleep it off?
  • May I just say that although there were young people around both the Magnolia Hotel (there was a Marine Corps wedding there yesterday) and Euclid Hall, these establishments are pretty solidly adult or even middle-aged hangouts.  (That said, the hotel was very quiet and the wedding guests unobtrusive revelers.  Semper Fi!)

All in one 16-hour span of time!  The last time Fratguy and I had an overnight in Denver it was St. Patrick’s Day 2012.  I figured that there would be some revelers, but it wasn’t just college-aged people or people still in their 20s or even their 30s.  It was people our age and older, people who have been able to drink legally now for at least two decades, who still feel the need to seize every minor holiday to get their drunk on publicly.  And I can’t remember the last time day or night I was on the free bus on the 16th Street Mall when I couldn’t smell drunks.  The really offending public inebriates aren’t the homeless people–it’s middle-class locals and tourists.

Not yet, anyway.

Not yet, anyway.

I’m no Carrie Nation, friends.  I thought that I had seen it all and was over being disappointed by adulthood.  And yet, here I am.  Is this just life in every big city after hours, or is it just our particular bovine metropolis?  Have you seen anything like this in your city?  Are people’s inner lives so empty and so spiritually and intellectually impoverished that they must make every weekend a drunken spree?  Are they all depressed self-medicators?  Is this what most people think of as an adult lifestyle?  Who thinks puking in a restaurant bathroom is just part of a party lifestyle, and who do they think will clean up all of this vomit?

Maybe they should change the name of this town to Drunkver.

32 thoughts on “Denver, you have a drinking problem.

  1. I know a number of adults, with serious jobs – attorneys, professors, policy analysts, etc. who partake in what I would consider binge drinking on a pretty regular basis. I think that politics also breeds quite a “party” lifestyle as well. Greasing the wheels of negotiation I guess? So, I think you see a lot of adults in business district areas who are doing this.
    I don’t know what your conferences are like, but I see a number of these behaviors at conferences in my area as well. I used to be shocked by it as an undergrad and graduate student when I saw full profs drunk, but now it doesn’t seem so shocking.


  2. Never been to Denver. Have been many other cities, never come across that outside of college campuses. But a. binge drinking is not part of the economics conference thing and b. I probably don’t hang out in the “right” places.

    Could it be something about the altitude mucking with people’s tolerance levels (or maybe your sense of smell)? Huh, looks like sciences says no but it’s something still commonly believed. And altitude sickness is apparently similar to getting drunk. Go internet.


  3. n&m: altitude may be an issue with some. However, feeling slightly more buzzed than usual after one or two drinks does not necessitate vomiting in a public restroom. (i.e. most responsible drinkers will have plenty of time to recalibrate.)

    I guess what disturbs me about the extravagant public drunkenness in Denver is the fact that the local news media, businesses, and city council have been up in arms for years about the homeless population in Denver who supposedly drive away so much business b/c of their drunkenness and substance abuse. They have passed a no camping law (for example) to mitigate the presence of homeless people.

    But from what I’ve seen, the homeless people in Denver are much less disruptive and much more polite than the middle-class drunks, most of whom are getting drunk at said local businesses. So, clearly, some bodies are permitted to be undisciplined in public, whereas others are not.

    We spend years trying to beat civilization into children, for example, so that they don’t pee or poop outside of a bathroom, don’t vomit in public, don’t make a scene, don’t interrupt other people’s dinners or evenings by screaming, etc. But drunk adults do all of these things, AND they don’t clean up after themselves. Why the different standards?


  4. One thing that contains such drinking where I live is that most people have to drive. So there’s always a designated driver. And in couple world, you don’t car pool. If you’re out with a partner who can’t get trashed, getting trashed is much less fun. So the big urban areas with adequate public transport tend to attract heavier drinking. Anyway, a theory.

    And I don’t know what to say about anyone past about 25 who gets so drunk they throw up. *Not* classy!


  5. The one time I was in Denver, there was both an academic conference (my destination) and a beer festival on, so my experience is probably not a very good guide. I remember folks on the bus from the airport being a bit rowdy/anticipatory, but not yet drunk. On the return trip they were simply quiet (hung over, perhaps?). I didn’t really notice a lot of drunks (of any socioeconomic persuasion), but that might be attributed to my staying pretty close to the conference hotel, and eating mostly in cheap chain restaurants. I do think, in retrospect, I experienced some effects of the altitude, but that felt more like a very mild flu or medium sleep deprivation than anything like drunkenness (caveat: the last time I was anything close to drunk was junior year in college, and, while I got to the point of feeling the room was a bit unstable — probably augmented by the fact that the occasion was a waltz — I didn’t get anywhere close to vomiting. And yes, I think I had a good deal of fun in college despite never getting any more drunk than that).


  6. Well, it sounds pretty similar to the city I have been living in for the past 7 years. I can’t say if that was the pattern in Grad School (in a completely different state), because I was younger and a heavy drinker, so it look pretty normal to me.

    One thing I have always found hard to adjust in the US is the fact that, if you don’t go to Church nor have kids (as is my case), socialization seems to always involve alcohol. And I love beer, but it is too much. In Argentina, while there is a lot of alcohol around, socialization tends to involve caffeine: hours spent talking about nothing in cafes with your friends, getting together at somebody’s place and drinking mate (a highly caffeneited South American drink). Even when somebody brings wine (Argentinean beer is awful, and so light nobody can really get drunk on it) to a gathering, you drink 2-3 glasses, but not a whole bottle.


  7. It’s way more common than we want to admit. Watch American movies. The man gets home, goes to the frig and picks up a beer. Whom are we kidding?

    European drink a lot too, but they seem to handle it without overabundance of binges. In Berlin, the annual Karneval der Kulturen leaves miles of streets covered with beer bottles. Nevertheless, most of the young people don’t seem drunk.

    Have been flying coast to coast and overseas in 1st class (not my money). Many passengers in the wide seats end up red faced and slurring. (I don’t drink.)


  8. The first time I ever rolled into Denver it was quite literally, on a train, (too) many years ago. I was staying onboard and heading west to the Bay Area, but it was early morning and the first thing they loaded at the end of the lounge/café car was about six cases of Coors. Coors was not a national brand then, but in the East, anyway, something of an exotic, akin to say maybe Corona or a moderately rare European beer now, albeit not like something from a six-hundred barrel-a-year craft brewery. A huge number of guys about my age coming from the East all but rioted when they saw these cases, wanting to get their hands on the alcoholic equivalent of the best Mexican sinsemilla. Maybe these guys all got off that day and started a colony or something?

    This year I got out of my little college town for both Homecoming and Halloween. For the latter I went to a slightly bigger college town five hundred miles west of here for a conference. It was quiet as a pin there, at least as late as six a.m. on Saturday, when I left. But nearby Chicago was also kind of subdued on Saturday. Maybe it was the weather, or maybe everybody just road-tripped out to Drunkver? I hear that the AHA is coming out there in a couple of years. Book the Brown Palace; set up a mobile detox unit in an auxiliary kitchen; and let’s just party like it’s 1972?!?


  9. Welcome to the UK, where, it should be noted, getting rollicking on an evening after your average history conference is pretty par for the course – and it’s not the youngsters that are the worst offenders! Being able to present your paper with a hangover is just one of the essential skills of getting on in the British academy. Much of our networking happens in the pub. (Yes, this does lead to serious professional issues for people who don’t drink and particularly those who won’t/can’t go into drinking establishments even if they’re not drinking themselves).

    More seriously, statistically, in the UK, older middle-class people drink more and more often than the poor and the young for the simple reason that they can afford to do it. Technically, many people ‘binge’ drink every single day, because the number of units of alcohol that constitute a ‘binge’ are relatively low and not related to how ‘drunk’ (ie in control) you are. However, their (our?) drinking is often more socially acceptable, as its more likely to be at home (or in nice restuarants where they’re bundled home in taxis) than in public houses or on the street. They also often have a better tolerance for alcohol than younger folks.


  10. Maybe it’s my early bedtime, or maybe people in my subfields are sober as judges, but I’ve never seen this kind of behavior at a conference. There are drunks here and there, to be sure, but they tend to stand out as exceptions rather than the rule.

    I was discussing this with a friend yesterday IRL and she said that she remembers Philadelphia as being a major city for public drunkenness and misbehavior. I don’t remember it that way quite so much–and I lived on the same block as the Irish pub at 20th and Walnut Streets for 3 years. But, I was 20 years younger, and that place had a pretty young crowd, so I might have forgiven more.

    That might be what offends me about the public drunkenness in Denver–it’s OLD PEOPLE like me as well as the usual suspects in their 20s.


  11. I have to say, having given 3 papers in North America in the last fortnight (one seminar, 2 conference), I’ve been amazed at how well behaved most people are AND how early people go to bed! But perhaps most mind-blowing is the 1130am lunch – dude, if it’s before 12, it’s still breakfast.

    However, it’s clearly contagious, given that I’m currently writing blog comments before 7am, before my 9am date with Mary Leadbeter (1758-1826).


  12. I think it might be your subfield! I haven’t seen a lot of obvious drunken behavior at conferences, but I’ve been pretty shocked at the drinking by some of my colleagues at dinners. There hasn’t been any puking in the bathroom, but it gets uh, convivial.


  13. Following on from Feminist Avatar’s comments:

    The research seminar at the British University where I did my Ph.D. essentially had this schedule:

    4:35 – Paper begins after the “academic five minutes” expires.
    5:15 – Paper ends. Hell session for the speaker begins.
    6:00 – Hell session ends. Wine bottles open, frank discussion of the paper beings, and light networking commences.
    7:00 – Wine being consumed, the seminar adjourns to the pub, true feelings about the paper are finally exposed, and networking begins in earnest.
    ??:?? – The seminar finally breaks up, and we head home.


  14. I live in Denver and would never go downtown on a Friday night. LoDo (Lower Downtown) is scary on the weekends, and it’s not because of homeless people- I worked with the homeless population downtown for a while, and many do much less disruptive drugs like heroine- it’s not even because of city-dwellers. The scariest people are suburban 30-somethings from places like Highlands Ranch, who feel the need to go downtown on the weekend and bring their guns and start bar fights with everyone. I have been sexually harassed downtown several times by older white men, and although there are some good restaurants it’s just not worth it to go down there on the weekend anymore.


  15. The last time I was in Denver it was with the annual Slavics conference (Russians, East Europeans, and everybody else who’s been part of the Russian Empire and Soviet Union). You might think that bunch would spark vodka-sodden riots, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone visibly drunk, in Denver or elsewhere. I do agree, though, that having the money to get richly schnockered means you’re going to see a lot of drunk middle-aged men. Sorry. Personally, my tolerance for alcohol had dropped a lot since I crossed over 40.


  16. Philly drinking tends to divide into hardcore and amateur hour. Amateur hour is St. Patrick’s Day, New Year’s Day (Mummers Parade), Atlantic City, and any wedding. Hardcore is the neighborhood bars. You don’t see much amateur hour in the finer dining establishments.

    And when I hear about someone puking in a dining establishment, I don’t think amateur hour, I think bulimia. But then again, I work with teenage girls (and increasingly boys) who are prone to have that particular disorder.


  17. I was in the Irish Pub not two weeks ago for a couple of innings of a World Series game and it was crowded, and noisy, but very businesslike, if the business of the night was polishing off a wide range of craft beers. It was a college football Saturday and the Flyers were also playing. If there were any alcohol-related injuries while I was there, it was probably that guy in the “Hack, Don’t Frack” t-shirt, whipping his head back and forth between five different screens trying to see if Oregon would cover the spread. Walnut St. was quiet.

    Years before, in my first month of grad. school, I went to a department “reception” for newcomers in the Upper Egyptian Room of the U. Museum. There, among the mummies, the sauce flowed at levels I had never seen back in O-Hi-O, where we trained on 3.2 beer. I got nearly blinded, then remembered I was meeting some friends at the Phillies game in their doomed ballpark. Locked out of the Museum when I left it and having to pee first, I veered through the Library, staggering every step of the way. I can still remember the title of a book I saw on a shelf trying to find the right room, but I can’t remember anything about the game. That’s what serious academia *used* to be like, our professors told us over the next semester, but that culture was on a long slow down-slide already, partly before the still-elaborating soft drug culture.


  18. Drinking is certainly part of the culture of my subfield but I’ve never seen anyone drunk at conferences. As a non-drinker the bar as a networking site annoys me a fair bit but it’s tolerable.

    The drinking culture in my grad program is seriously over the top. And not participating in it has a certain social cost I’m not sure the drinkers even notice. I think that has more to do with the nature of the town than anything else.

    My undergrad was a big sports school in a town with a couple of famous parties every year that are basically slightly organized riots. I think I preferred that culture because at least I knew to not be in town on those days.


  19. Regarding throwing up in restaurant restrooms — a few years ago I suddenly felt ill and had to go throw up during a meal out with friends. I had had a drink, but was not drunk, and couldn’t figure out what I might have eaten to cause that reaction. When it happened a second time a few months later at a different restaurant, I worried about what was going on – but never did figure out what caused those two episodes and as they weren’t repeated, I stopped worrying. I wasn’t drunk or sick either time. However, the second time as I exited the stall, my friend who was dining with us also appeared in the small restroom – she never said anything to me, but I did wonder if she thought I was binging and purging – it wasn’t that either!!
    So, I do think there might be many reasons for semi-public vomiting other than being drunk.


  20. Here it’s the lawyers and the oil company people who get so insanely drunk (and loud) at restaurants. (And Blackwater types, of course, when they existed.) I am from California, so not from here, and I was warned, but I had to see it to believe it. People will drink until they drop and that is normal, not exceptional.


  21. I used to go downtown all the time and always noticed the drunkenness on the streets say after 9 P.M. I finally had enough when my daughter and I could not get tickets into a rockies game. We went to have lunch and watch it on a big screen in one of the bars. People were getting totally loaded before the game. A couple of hours later we were leaving and saw literally hundreds of people pouring out of the stadium, several innings before the game ended. They all were heading back into bars to drink. We were so upset because ewe would have loved to see the game. It used to be people actually went to see the sport, now apparently they just go to get drunk.

    At a Nuggets game my son and I attended, several guys behind us had to be escorted out for drunkenness.

    I do know from my professional background that Denver has one of the highest incest rates in the world and a lot of covert pedophilia and cult activity. Domestic abuse is also very high. Maybe everyone is drinking to forget.

    It is so disgusting to see a crowd of drunken adults acting like idiots. I avoid downtown at night.

    Finally, there’s a lot of money to be made from an inebriated population. Public policy is very pro bars and drinking.


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