deCroce blog of photography

Remembering El Chapultepec

 Iconic El Chapultepec Closed 

Remembering El Chapultepec is easy, for an old Denver native. Smells of burnt cigars, spilled whiskey and musty wooden booths waft to my nose when my eyes close. Remembering El Chapultepec in its best years is to lounge in the sunshine of rich Denver nostalgia.



Commercial Photography Exterior

The last pulse of electricity illuminates only the green neon cactus and the word “Live”. Business has dried up at El Chapultepec, but it will  live on in Denver folklore.


Remembering El Chapultepec in its finest years is to revive a time in a smaller city from long ago –– a time when an ‘air pod’ was a seed blowing in the wind and ‘streaming’ might bring to mind a water game at the confluence of the Platt River and the Cherry Creek. In its finest years, “The Pec” was more than just a bar or a restaurant. It was more than a venue for live jazz. It was a chapel for raw emotion. A bar has a physical definition, El Chapultepec had a spiritual one.

At night, when the jazz started playing, The Pec was packed. If you arrived late, you’d stand in the back hoping to land a seat at the bar or one of the booths. And if you did get a seat, you’d stay a long while. I remember summer nights, hot steamy nights when the side door next to the stage was propped open with an electric fan. The air was hot. The music was almost always hot music. It was loud and sweaty and decadent. It was sublime.

On a quiet afternoon, El Chapultepec was a normal and comfortable but never empty. It was a dark Denver dive-bar and for me, it was a favorite spot for photoshoots. I loved the light, the deep shadows and the textures. Whenever I booked to photograph a professional singer, I’d suggest The Pec. Photoshoots were always welcomed at El Chapultepec during the day, as long as a band wasn’t rehearsing.

Posted here are a few of the memories and some of the photographs.

El Chapultepec Day

El Chapultepec during the day provided beautiful light and shadow.


professional singer portrait

Photoshoot of professional singer at El Chapultepec shot with available window light and a single reflector.

Remembering El Chapultepec

Once far away from the action of downtown Denver, El Chapultepec, at 20th and Market became increasingly surrounded by gentrification once the Rockies ballpark was built.


Remembering El Chapultepec (chah-pool-teh-pehk)


El Chapultepec Interior

Remembering EL Chapultepec

Window light for professional singer portrait at EL Chapultepec.

Remembering El Chapultepec


It must have been the mid 1980s. Sushi was a new sensation in Denver and I was out for it. Was I with Joe Hughes and Rod Allison?, I’m not really sure, but we ended up at El Chapultepec after dinner. I can hear the sounds like it was just last summer. Oh wait, the summer of 2020 bears no resemblance to glory nights of Jazz in Denver. It might be hard to imagine Denver as an oasis for jazz, but it was. There were jazz-funk bands, neo-bop musicians, and jazz-rap artists playing venues all across town. Fusion musicians like Rob Mullens and Laura Newman played the Bombay Club on 10th & Grant while The York on Colfax at Hudson hosted solo gigs. The Hi-Dive, The Skylark and The Mercury brought in some big names to match local talent. But El Chapultepec at 20th and Market was the real deal.

The night was hottter than most. Electric fans blew in outside air through open doors as we sat in a booth savoring a mix of dinner-time sake and whiskey. That’s when I first heard the powerful, stunning, deftly crafted voice of Hazel Miller. I introduced myself during one of the breaks and invited her to my studio for a photoshoot. The portraits from of Hazel in the 1980s (we were both much younger then) were actually pretty cool. She used the a shot of her singing in my studio for many years afterwards. Just for fun, I might search my archives to find that portrait of Hazel wearing a purple jacket with giant shoulder pads.

Remembering El Chapultepec

Painting over photograph portrait of professional singer at El Chapultepec.

Remembering El Chapultepec Remembering El Chapultepec

 El Chapultepec signRemembering El Chapultepec Remembering El Chapultepec Remembering El Chapultepec

Denver is remembering El Chapultepec this week as it closes.  How can we ever forget?


El Chapultepec

A man wearing a mask in the winter of 2020 walks by a closed Denver bar… Goodby El Chapultepec.


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