What: A cozy bar mashed up with a chic art gallery.
Where: 2528 Walnut St., Denver
When: Monday-Sunday, 4 p.m.-close.
Earlier in January, Pon Pon started slinging drinks in the space next door to RiNo’s Stowaway Coffee+ Kitchen. The cozy cocktail spot brings with it an art gallery featuring works from local and national artists, but don’t call it an art bar—it’s much more than just that. It has personality that isn’t defined by the art in the gallery (that’s just a bonus). Rather, Pon Pon’s character is built by owners Eric Corrigan, Paul Garcia, and their personal belongings that decorate and create the relaxed vibe of the bar. In the curated space, you’ll find an array of vintage furniture, mirrors, album artwork, and some of Corrigan’s personal paintings.
“It’s like a little bit of my things and Paul’s things,” Corrigan said. “It’s a culmination of all the bars we love around the states.”
With “pon pon” referencing the nautical term for “man overboard,” it certainly lends itself to somewhat of a maritime bar. From a lighthouse-shaped whiskey decanter above the bar to the silhouetted sailboats behind the ‘70s-style couch against the wall, Corrigan and Garcia have included subtle nods to the sea in the decor and drinks. The eclectic trinkets, art, and various other wall hangings tie it all together for a coastal, winter house feeling.
Where many bars and restaurants have turned to Spotify or Pandora for music, the tunes at Pon Pon also come from the owners’ personal collection of records and cassette tapes that are regularly spinning. “It makes it a more personal and tangible experience,” said Corrigan.
The drink choices at Pon Pon are limited, but on point with six house cocktails and four beers on tap, including Cisco Brewers’ Whale’s Tale Pale Ale—another nod to the bar’s nautical theme.
“We don’t want it to be complicated,” said Corrigan. “We have a very select choice of liquors, cocktails, and beer to keep it simple.” Garcia, who spent time bartending at Forest Room 5, and curated the $12 cocktail list. You’ll find a couple classics, including the AK Martini and 31st & Blake Old Fashioned. As for some of the house cocktails, Garcia brought in a personal favorite spirit, Big Gin, from Seattle to use in some of the selections. Try the Mondegreen Lime—a slightly tart and herbaceous libation of kaffir lime-infused Big Gin with jalapeno, lime, and simple syrup.
While Pon Pon is currently just showcasing its art, beer, and cocktails, there are plans to partner up with their neighbors at Stowaway Coffee & Kitchen to bring in some eats. “We’ve talked about having them do our food,” Corrigan said. “Just some bite-sized little things. It’s in the works.”
The art gallery at Pon Pon is set to change every 6-8 weeks and go beyond just paintings.
“We’re probably going to expand into showing things like sculptures and furniture,” said Corrigan. “It’s really open for anything—performance art, poetry, multimedia,” added Garcia. “We aren’t trying to dictate what we say is art.” Currently, you can drop in and view paintings from international artist Nat Murray.
“We’ve been wanting to do this for a long time,” said Corrigan, who has lived in the area since 2000. “We love what’s been going on [in RiNo]… but I remember when there wasn’t anything down here… You had to ride all the way into town just for a cup of coffee.”
With Pon Pon, Corrigan and Garcia have added to the now robust development of RiNo and in turn given Denver’s bar (and art) scene a simple and special place to sip.
Photography by Brittany Werges.