My last post was just over two years ago as I was just getting to know my new city. Life seems to have gotten in the way of writing, but I wanted to follow that post with an update on the current state of Denver, and in particular my neighborhood River North Arts District or RINO. I touched on this a bit in my previous post, but this newly gentrified area has become a glaring example of millennial influence on city life.

There is a pot shop, brewery or distillery on just about every corner of my neighborhood. I’ve seen several open in the two years I’ve lived here, and several more are slated to open within the next year. While Colorado in general has seen a huge growth in this industry, RINO is especially concentrated boasting 15 breweries within a short walking distance of my apartment. With the sheer amount of substances aimed at getting people buzzed packed into this small area one might expect a very seedy part of town, but that is not the case.

When I think about other places know for booze and drugs I think of Amsterdam, or Bourbon Street in New Orleans, bringing to mind sketchy red light districts and public intoxication galore. But RINO is missing one key element to make it a traditional red light district, the utter lack of a sex industry. That’s not to say that prostitution doesn’t exist in Denver, or that there isn’t a hookup scene, but it seems to exist as a separate scene altogether. Modern technology certain plays its part, as dating has moved largely to online to apps like Tinder, bars are freed up to become gathering places for friends and families.

The growth of the brewery, hard liquor production, and weed scenes have brought a slew of professional and young families looking to have it all. It is no longer taboo to bring children to bars, especially the breweries. In fact most breweries in the neighborhood provide kid and dog friendly patios to encourage millennial parents to drink, smoke, and socialize with their friends and children. Denver just passed a law to allow establishments to have sections of their bars/restaurants designated for pot use, making it even easier to enjoy Denver’s rocky mountain high.  And sprinkled in with the booze and pot are high end eateries, condos, murals and art galleries.

It shows a big shift in the way Americans view drinking and drug use, as it’s becoming clear this younger generation of parents are looking to live in clean, family friendly, upscale neighborhoods while still enjoying their youthful vices. It also shows a shift to a more European approach to drinking. You can go to a brewery and have a beer or two, let you kids run around the patio, and then go home to cook dinner. Going to bar here doesn’t mean you’re going to binge drink, get hammer and throw up on the street. Urban Americans are obtaining a moderate approach to drinking, and also to smoking pot. The stereotype of a “pot head” whose constantly smoking and sitting lazily sitting on the coach night after night is going out the door. People here will spend their morning hiking, maybe eat an edible or two, and be done with substances for the rest of the week.  The Denver lifestyle seems in line with cities in California, as well as Seattle, Portland, and others on the West Coast.  With the expansion of breweries in places like North Carolina and pot legalization in Massachusetts, on can speculate that East Coast cities like Boston are well on their way to establishing the family friendly red light district that Denver has achieved.