Before going down the stairs and before getting swept up in all the sparkle and spectacle, pause for a moment in front of one photo.
Next to a placard detailing Bunny Bee’s notable background in burlesque, there’s a portrait of the blond woman wearing a silky red dress while sitting in a leather chair.
“That’s Snoop Dogg’s chair,” she says, casually name-dropping the star rapper.
This kind of detail confirms what the sign next to her photo spells out. Bunny Bee is a star in her own right. And opening this place — the cabaret-style restaurant and bar awaiting at the bottom of the stairs — has been her twinkly dream in the sky for over a decade.
After years of wishing and months of renovating, La Burla Bee is ready to shine — though Wednesday’s windstorm has delayed things a bit.
The new late-night hangout and entertainment venue was set to open Friday near Nevada Avenue and Kiowa Street in downtown Colorado Springs, but damage from the storm has caused a delay; the opening is not expected to be put off for more than a couple of weeks, though.
To find La Burla Bee, open a red door next to Oscars Oyster Bar and head down a level to be greeted by a sleek bar with stone and brick for walls. The underground feel will be familiar to some patrons who visited this location during its years as The Underground, a popular gay bar that closed in 2018.
Bee said she shopped around for locations, but this one clicked as a way to carry on the building’s LGBTQIA-friendly tradition.
“When this location came to be, it meant so much because so many people have so many memories here,” she said. “And we get to bring it back to life.”
As much as La Burla Bee is an ode to its owner, with toy bumblebees hidden in secret spots and an Italian food menu in honor of her heritage and a nod to her in the name, she says the place has a higher calling.
Bee, along with her business partner and husband, Bee Radd, wanted to bring something new to downtown Colorado Springs.
“We wanted to create a safe space, an inclusive space, for people to come in and experience what Colorado Springs has to offer,” he said.
Bunny Bee also wanted to honor burlesque performers who have come before her and the art form overall. That’s clear to see while walking through a hallway she refers to as “the museum of La Burla Bee.” One wall is covered with photos of burlesque legends, past and present, and another serves as a scrapbook of memories.
“The photos on those walls are my heart,” she said.
The native of Trinidad in southern Colorado and longtime resident of Colorado Springs made her burlesque debut in 2009 with local group Peaks and Pasties.
“From the moment I started doing this, I just fell in love with it,” she said. “It’s the art of empowerment.”
Bee, also an experienced model, immersed herself in burlesque, becoming a well-known performer and leader in the industry. She’s now the director of Peaks and Pasties, the co-owner of the Colorado Burlesque Festival and board chair of the Burlesque Hall of Fame, based in Las Vegas.
With those connections, you can expect to see top burlesque performers from around the world come to the La Burla Bee stage.
Or, more accurately, stages.
There’s one stage in the front “vaudeville room,” a bar and dining area that will host comedians, musicians and other entertainers. In the back, after winding through maze-like hallways, you’ll find the bigger stage for burlesque shows. Keep going and you’ll run into “The Beehive,” a dance floor and performance space that will open to patrons after shows.
“We’re calling it a circus without the animals,” she said. “It’s going to be an experience from the time we open to the time we close each night.”
It’s an experience just to take in the details of La Burla Bee, which has a capacity of 280 people and adds up to around 9,000 square feet.
There’s a go-go cage for dancers, a display case of sparkly pasties worn by performers, glimmering chandeliers and a piano that Bee covered in glitter.
Glitter can be spotted elsewhere, sprinkled on the floors and bathroom sinks. The shimmering stuff is a reminder that La Burla Bee is a place for celebration. For the bar’s namesake, it’s a place to celebrate how far she has come and how far her city has come.
“There was a time that the idea of opening a dedicated cabaret would not have been received well in this town,” Bee said.
Now, it’s nearly here.
“Something like this is so needed in downtown Colorado Springs,” she said. “We just want to share it with everyone.”
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