The Columbine Bar: Two-thirds dive bar, one-third museum

by Nick Gonzales

The Columbine Bar in Mancos is a collection of artifacts from bygone eras. Like some sort of hidden cove, it looks like it has been collecting cultural relics for decades.

The bar, which according to the plaque outside opened in 1910 (contradicting a painted sign inside dating it to 1903), is one of the oldest bars in Colorado.

Even in 1948, the Mancos Times described it as “an old bar run by old timers” and noted its notorious reputation. It was the site of barroom brawls, knife fights, gambling and, at one point, the murder of its owner by his estranged wife. Apparently cowboys used to ride through the bar on horseback. Children, according to the plaque, were warned to walk on the other side of Grand Avenue when passing the saloon.

Now, though, it seems pretty tame. It doesn’t put on any airs for such a historic place – it’s a pretty standard dive bar. The decor largely consists of animal skulls, macrobrew ads, and sports team paraphernalia. (It might be worth noting that the current owners really like the Green Bay Packers.)

Seventy-one years after the newspaper described it as such, the description of the clientele rings true: “old-timers.” Everyone seated at the bar on a weekday evening seemed as though they had been coming there since, well … the pay-phone in the corner was a necessary and useful item. On weekend nights, we’ve seen a younger crowd come in to play pool or darts in the bar’s remarkably spacious interior. But it seems that the opening of Fenceline Cider and Mancos Brewing Company have created a bit of competition for the historic watering hole.

Speaking of MBC, the Columbine is one of the few places to get its beers on tap, including this writer’s personal favorite, the Pagan Porter, a smooth, dark, cold-fermented brew with a slight chocolaty taste. It’s worth going to the bar just for that.

The Bar definitely doesn’t let you forget you’re in Mancos, featuring large paintings of Mesa Verde and local livestock brands carved into the wood of the bar and the building’s support pillars.

The wall behind the stage displays relics of Mancos’ cowboy heritage from the late 19th and early 20th centuries as part of the Mancos Valley Pioneer Museum’s “Museum Without Walls.” Given the character of the bar, we can’t think of a better place for it.

Nick Gonzales

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