We’ve all been starved for live music the last few months. The livestream shows have been cool, but they really aren’t the same. The energy of a live band, the buzz of an audience, the lights, the drinks, friends and atmosphere are all missing from those virtual performances. The experience is not as much of an experience.

But, with the opening of Number 38 in RiNo, Denver’s newest live music venue, that’s about to change. Live music is back, baby! (No tickets or cover-fee, required). And with it, you’ll find a selection of delicious handheld foods, a rotating variety of only-local craft beer and liquor, an après area and even (eventually) the chance to play some beach volleyball — all in a safe, healthy environment.

Photos courtesy of Number 38.

“We’re bringing that Nashville, Austin kind of vibe to Denver,” says Spencer Fronk, CEO and co-founder of Number 38. “Oftentimes in Denver you either have really good food and hit-or-miss entertainment, or you have amazing shows where there's crappy food. We decided to create Number 38 to solve that problem, to fill that void so you never have to settle.”

It’s like a Colorado culture festival, a concert, a beer festival and a tasting event all rolled into one awesome location — inside an old neon sign factory overlooking the South Platte. It’s a place to party, a place to relax, a place to safely enjoy that concert vibe we’ve all missed so much, while still maintaining responsible COVID habits.

Photos courtesy of Number 38.

For now, guests must make reservations for their group ahead of time, and their capacity is capped at 175 (out of 1000) so it fills up quick. But the live music is a free feature of the venue — there’s no tickets or cover-fee, or even a tab to close out at the end of the night.

“Just reserve a table, show up and have a good time,” Fronk says. “That’s all we want you to do.”

When you walk into 3560 Chestnut Place you’re greeted at the front, where you scan your payment card and ID, they give you an RFID wristband and send you on your way. You won’t need your wallet again, after that point — just scan that wristband when you’re ordering a drink, scan it again when you decide which type of food you’re going to get, and again on the way out if you see some of the band’s merch you want to purchase. When the night is over simply walk out and they’ll automatically close you out and charge your card.

Photos courtesy of Number 38.

Number 38’s decor is stead-fast authentic to Colorado’s culture: Plush leather chairs and couches line the front bar-area, bedecked with native-patterned pillows, blankets, cow-hides and old saddles. A big buffalo head watches over the sprawling main bar area; the bathrooms are furnished with detailed miniature art, made in homage to the state; even the name itself — Number 38 — is a nod to Colorado, the 38th state welcomed into the Union.

“We really wanted to present the full Colorado feel,” Fronk says.

Just inside, once you’ve got your wristband, you’ll find a 3D topographic wooden table-map of Colorado with wooden markers scattered across the state. As Number 38’s list of local craft beer and spirits grows and rotates, those markers will rotate with them, Fronk explains, visually illustrating where in the state each distillery and brewery is from.

“The vision here is really to create a space where you can explore Colorado without having to drive all the way to Carbondale to get some really good whiskey or all the way to Durango to check out Ska,” says Fronk.

Photos courtesy of Number 38.

The food prepared in Number 38’s kitchen is as diverse as their beer and spirit selection. Patrons can choose from mouthwatering tacos, bao buns, flatbread, and bowls. Prepared by Chef Merlin Verrier with Street Feud, everything on the menu is fire: from their crispy pork belly bao buns, to the braised lamb tacos, the charred kale bowl and any of the side fries (which are all named after music genres like k-pop and mariachi).

“It's really just like crave-able hand-held bites,” says Fronk. “There's nothing fussy about this: Just get something and go sit down, enjoy the show, eat a taco or a bao bun and drink a cold beer.”

Of course, the main event is the stage area outside, where all the live music and comedy shows go down. It’s a huge courtyard area full of custom, locally crafted Adirondack chairs (with two cupholders each), all set before a three-sided open stage, large enough for a six-piece band.

“The same guys that do the Red Rocks lighting system designed this,” Fronk says. “So it’s pretty state of the art."

Photos courtesy of Number 38.

When the COVID regulations start to let up, Fronk hopes people will just walk in from the South Platte promenade or right off Chestnut street, if they hear something they like. It will be a rolling concert, free for any- and everyone to come enjoy, Thursday through Sunday, any season of the year.

Until then, we've all just got to go onto their website and make reservations — an extremely easy process that's well-worth the minimal effort. Once you and your crew are inside Number 38, you’ll get your own “pod” space either indoors or outside. Then, just order your local beverage from the bar, get one of Chef Merlin's fantastic hand-held bites, sit back, relax and enjoy the show.

It’s been a long time coming.