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Did Amendment 41 Kill Denver’s Political Nightlife?

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As in other states, Colorado’s political nightlife has taken a dive over the past couple years (with the exception, of course, of the events surrounding the Democratic National Convention in August).

Just a few years ago, well-heeled lobbyists thought nothing of dropping a few hundred dollars on a night out with a couple state senators. Those scenes started to fade in 2006, however, following the passage of Amendment 41, which banned all contributions and gifts to legislators from lobbyists.

But it’s not that hard to find legislators, staffers, lobbyists or reporters tipping one back in a Capitol Hill bar or restaurant.

While there’s no one political watering hole that everyone frequents, Red Room, half a block east from the statehouse on Colfax Avenue, is the destination of choice for many politicians and a sizable chunk of the legislative press corps after a day at the Capitol.

Other state Capitol folks head across the street to City Grille, though it’s considered more of a sit-down restaurant than a bar.

Benny’s Restaurant, a Mexican place on Seventh Avenue and Grant Street, is a little farther walk from the Capitol, but it’s become increasingly popular among politicos.

And the Tavern Uptown is a favorite among many staffers, though legislators themselves rarely make an appearance there.

Still, today’s legislative nightlife is a far cry from just a few years ago, when well-heeled lobbyists thought nothing of dropping a few hundred dollars on a night out with a couple state senators. Those scenes starting to disappear in 2006, following the passage of Amendment 41, which banned all contributions and gifts to legislators from lobbyists.

According to one veteran legislative staffer, only a minority of legislators is even seen at local bars on any given night. And because most Colorado legislators live within driving distance of the Capitol, many tend to head home for dinner instead of lingering around Capitol Hill haunts.

Many Denver-area legislators have their own neighborhood bars to frequent. House Minority Leader Mike May’s bar of choice is Pogue Mahone’s Irish Pub in Parker–named for a colorfully crass Gaelic phrase.

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