“They call me white chocolate. No really, that’s my nickname because I can karaoke the SHIT out of ‘Bust a Move’,” she says laughing to herself. Long, dark hair cascading over her shoulders, covered in tattoos. The ‘she’ who I’m referring to? Well, that’s none other then the fabulous Jody Bouffard, owner of Denver’s LAST ‘lesbian’ bar here in Denver, Blush & Blu.
“I loved Colfax,” says Jody, with a twinkle in her eye and giddiness in her voice. You can tell she’s reminiscing about that time she moved here and instantly fell in love. “I had gone to NYC first, before I came to Colorado and I thought, I’m gonna love this city. But NYC was super dirty and disgusting – and it was 1996. So when I got out here I was like, ‘OMG! This is such a clean city to me!’ Colfax was a ‘big city’ coming from small-town Vermont. This was not scary to me. This was fun and exciting with different characters up and down the street.”
Coming to Colorado to pursue her studies in the pharmacy profession, Jody naturally fell into her current role. “I had an opportunity to run a 6,000 sq. ft. nightclub when I was 23, so I quit Walgreens.” She went on to purchase a tiny, dingy ‘bar’ on the 1500 block of East Colfax. When she was able to annex the space next to it, Blush & Blu was born.
“As far as opening up a bar versus going to pharmacy school, this was the path I was supposed to go down.” And even though she just sort of ‘fell’ into this role, Jody is a natural at what she does. During one 5-minute block while I was sitting and chatting with her, she had polished cocktail glasses, made a drink like a pro, answered the very antique-yet-funky silver phone that hung on the wall, and greeted people with a genuinely warm smile.
She’s a master of her craft, and her good vibes and welcoming nature are all what make the experience at Blush & Blu, such a groovy place. A place where Jody’s business partner, SJ Paye, has matched it with the phrase, “All humans are welcome.”
Together, they’ve created a hub for the LGBTQ community where people can find a network and connect. “Social media has killed the bars, especially the gay bars. With social media you can meet people with the click of a button. On Friday night you’ll see like three girls sitting on the end of the bar, with their phones, versus talking to each other.” Which is why Jody and SJ are so passionate about the message behind Blush & Blu, because it’s not just a bar, it’s a space that encourages all people to connect, without the barrier of a screen.
And with their shtick, all humans welcome, they’ve become host to a variety of themed nights that invite people from all backgrounds. From poetry night to karaoke night, to the not-so-occasional drag show, there’s something for everyone to enjoy and a reason to come back.
“I love it when there’s a good party. You know, you can tell everyone is having a good time and people are meeting new people, and mingling, drinking, and getting out of their comfort zone. There are definitely some bars that you walk into and think ‘Woa, I’m uncomfortable.’ I don’t ever want that to be this place. I want it to be like, ‘OMG, that place was so much fun, and so colorful and creative,” says Jody smiling, as she stands tall and proud behind her bar, looking at the space she’s created.
“I’m working on some new projects,” she mentions, trying to add more color and lighten up the place. However, the walls are already filled with bold canvasses, which she’s mostly created, set against a colored backdrop, where shades of the rainbow drip into one another. There’s a floor-to-ceiling mural of a girl floating in space, with glittering eyes and purple/blue hair, created by Nixie-Pixie, a local tattoo artist, along with a hand-painted quote by Marianne Williamson sitting on the wall adjacent. She uses her concrete walls as an outlet for her creativity and is constantly finding new ways to ‘rebrand’ and make Blush & Blu unlike any other bar.
“This bar owns me, I can’t get out of town. I’m lucky if I can get out of town once a year,” she says silently chuckling, but is able to find the silver lining, because, in a way, the party always follows her. And while she does invest most of her time in Blush & Blu, and her creative endeavors, she’s also able to carve out some time to focus on her other passion, which is best described as “being intuitive and doing Tarot” – an opportunity she graciously seizes in order to call people out on their bullshit.
“When people aren’t honest and they’re lying to me, my lower back heats up. One time, right at this bar, I called a guy out on his shit and he picked up a glass and threw it across the room. Broken glass? I mean, that’s when I show you the door.” This no-bull-attitude definitely stemmed from her mom. “She taught me to not take shit from anybody, including men.”
Jody is not one to sugar-coat a situation or how she feels, and her crass sense of humor definitely proves that. “Gay marriage? LOVE IT! Divorce? Not so much!” But she does have a soft side and a deep appreciation for people. That brightness that exceptional people tend to embody, that “unconditional love. Like genuine, unconditional love, where you just meet them and you want to give them a hug, and you just feel that energy.” is what she loves most about people.
“One time there was a Native-American man who was sitting out front, drunk. I had just gotten here and I came inside and made two cups of coffee and I sat down with him and I started talking to him and he looked at me and started talking in Apache. I didn’t know what he was saying, but my spirit did. I could feel all the goosebumps and energy and shit. It was just random.” So, whether it’s a stranger on the street or a familiar face sitting opposite her, she brings that loving, good-natured essence into her bar.
“She’s known for being a grounding force in the community, like if you were gay/lesbian/transgender and you just came here to Denver, you would come here. You would talk to Jody. Jody is going to hook you up, with everything, like tell you where to go and what to do, where to eat, I mean, that’s what she’s really known for, for being an anchor,” said a dear friend of Jody’s for the past 15 years.
Jody smiles modestly as these words are spoken, and distracts herself by polishing another glass. Feeling inspired, another gal speaks up at the bar. “Jody took us under her wing and made sure we were okay,” referencing a time when Jody took her and her partner home after having one-too-many drinks.
Jody’s good intentions and loving, but no-nonsense attitude, is what people keep coming back for. The space that she and SJ have created has beautifully, yet organically, transformed into a sense of home along this ever-changing road we call Colfax.
With so many people coming and going in Denver, it’s so refreshing to have a spot where you feel safe and taken care of. And Jody, who found a sense of place and purpose along this wicked road, and over the years, became one of the characters of Colfax.