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Dubbed the “cocktail bar for fans of the weird and the unusual,” the Horror Bar quickly attracted people when it opened at 5126 East Colfax Avenue in March. But now it’s a horror show of its own.
In the past week, numerous women posted allegations on social media against the owner of the bar, Nathan (Nate) Szklarski, of sexual harassment and predatory behavior. Some of the claims were made by local women, others by women in Minneapolis – where Szklarski lived and worked as a tattoo artist before moving to Denver in 2018.
“He fled this town instead of dealing with the allegations because he saw nothing wrong with what he was doing,” says Sage Ugstad, a former friend and tattoo client of Szklarski in Minneapolis. “I find that dangerous because it crosses so many borders.”
Now Szklarski has left the horror bar, which is currently dark.
On June 22nd, a war of flames exploded in the horror bar’s comments section, starting with allegations that Szklarski had unsolicited photos of his penis to women. The allegations escalated during the day, and around 7:00 p.m. that night, the Horror Bar shared a message on their social media channels promising that the bar was working hard to promote an inclusive and safe space To hold people responsible for problematic behavior.
A screenshot of Horror Bar’s Instagram comments section before they were apparently deleted by the company.
Screenshot of the Instagram comments section by Horror Bar / Jaclyn Foglio
The article directed readers to Szklarski’s personal Instagram account “if you want to find out more about the current situation”.
On this page, Szklarski also shared a story on his Instagram page in which he confessed to sending a photo of his genitals to a woman he had never met. Here is this post:
I struggle with these words, but I want to disregard a time in my life when I was immature, selfish, young and acted out of fear and desperation. Years ago I was careless with my behavior, thinking only about myself and hurting a lot of people. Years ago a situation arose where my collective of this behavior came out and shook my world. I had no idea what to do and out of fear and a promise to myself I left everything I knew and loved and started a new life. I never addressed this situation. I never talked about what happened. I pushed it into the deepest darkest part of my body and left it there. I gave up on everything and made a promise to myself that I would become a better person every day. I spent time alone, changed jobs, broke bad habits, and went to counseling when I could afford it. There was an incident about seven years ago where I sent a dick pic to someone I had never met on Snapchat before. The incident resulted in these people posting it on social media. This attracted a lot of attention and became a hook for all of the people in the past whom I had hurt with my bad judgments. It soon became its own animal and the shame I felt made me flinch. I left my world in search of a place to start over. New friends, new jobs, new growth opportunities. I wanted to be someone I was proud of. Someone I knew I had inside of me. I put an incredible amount of work into creating this new person and leaving the past behind. But one thing that I totally neglected was the people I hurt. I ran far and fast and made a scab on that part of my life and never made it up. With this news I want to reopen my wound and take the time to apologize. Apologize for the person I used to be. The person who was drunk all along. The person who has been with several women. The person who was inconsiderate with people’s feelings and took too much advantage.
Szklarski’s apology only sparked more backlash, however. Lauren Lexvold, another former client, posted a comment on the bar’s page exposing Szklarski’s defense and suggesting that Szklarski is downplaying repetitive behavior to deflect real accountability: “You’re going to delete this because you’re doing damage control, but we didn’t forget to do it! “
After training at Monster Ink Tattoo in St. Paul, Szklarski was working at Steady Tattoo and Body Piercing in Minneapolis in 2014 when Lexvold found his tattoo account on Instagram. “I was very impressed with his work and we had several friends in common, so I followed him,” she recalls. “I was very happy with the tattoo, so I made another appointment with him. I continued to get tattooed by him and we had a very friendly relationship so I didn’t hesitate to share my Snapchat info with him when he asked. Within days of giving him my Snapchat handle, I received a photo of him. I opened it and was shocked that it was a photo of his penis. I was confused why he sent it to me as we weren’t communicating in advance of the photo. I felt ashamed, felt ashamed, and spent the rest of the day wondering why he was sending me this, wondering if I had done anything to suggest that I was open to this type of conversation. “
Alex Levine, owner of the Steady Tattoo Shop and the manager of Szklarski there, says another customer never met a similar story in 2016, but had established a working relationship with Online, “explains Levine.
Szklarski switched to Saint Sabrina’s Tattoo & Piercing; After leaving in 2018, he ended up with Black Coffin Tattoo, which is co-owned by Szklarski’s former mentor at Monster, Garrett Rautio.
Szklarski left Black Coffin Tattoo after about a few weeks. “There were some allegations against him and he said to me, ‘I think it is time I left,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I think maybe you’re right,'” Rautio recalls.
Szklarski showed up in Denver. Amy McClain started dating Szklarski in January 2020 after meeting him on the dating app Hinge. “He stuck to tattoo machines but never had a good answer as to why he wasn’t tattooing here,” she recalls. “I’ve never had a good answer about leaving Minnesota in the first place.” Szklarski moved in with McClain in April after losing his bartending job due to the pandemic; She says she kicked him out of her home in August after receiving news of his past.
“A woman on Instagram got in touch and sent me screenshots of extremely inappropriate / sexual things he’d sent her,” recalls McClain. “It seems that he tends to exploit extremely empathetic people. By the end of the relationship, I had no self-esteem.”
The horror bar theme was creepy.
Szklarski opened the Horror Bar after hosting several successful pop-up events in the room. But in the wake of the allegations, some planned acts canceled their events in the horror bar. “We have removed all support from Horror Bar and notified all other artists and staff,” said Denver-based drag queen Transwitch, who was due to perform there on Saturday, June 26th.
Joshua Schmitz, who ran Bellwether in the rooms now occupied by Horror Bar, has the lease for the address and says he’s thinking about what to do with the Horror Bar, which is closed until further notice.
“The emotions are very high right now,” says Schmitz. “Nate is currently pursuing personality defamation and doxing litigation against some of the people and allegations. Definitely not easy for everyone involved. It was an absolute tornado, to say the least. The aim was to give them a second home. We want nothing more than to restore that hope and that faith and to be that place again. “
Reached by phone, Szklarski said he was seeking legal counsel to help with a lawsuit, but declined to comment on the allegations.
In the meantime, all posts and comments on the allegations against Szklarski have been deleted from the horror bar’s social media sites, but not before many have been saved in screenshots. Szklarski has also switched his Instagram account to private, with a self-proclaimed “Northwood Phantom” label above the words “INHERENTLY EVIL. A BADGER. “
“I think it got to the point where he burned down all of his bridges in Minneapolis, maybe looking for a fresh start,” says Levine. “I don’t want to chase the guy, but that’s not nothing.”
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Hilal is an alumni of the Metropolitan State University of Denver with a degree in political science. She has written for Denver Life Magazine and 303 Magazine and is currently the cannabis intern for Westword.