This might come as a surprise to Dave Gibson, a regular at the Old Colorado City bar, who says he does both.
"I go to work," he explains, "then I come here to chill out, and then I hang out."
Let me tell you how a 21-year bartender and a guy commonly known as "Hoot" got dragged into this conversation. For two years now, the Indy's Best Of Colorado Springs ballot has featured categories for Best Hangout and Best Place to Chill. It was only after this year's voting that our crack editorial staff realized there might be some overlap there.
Except that there wasn't. In fact, no local establishment placed in both categories. Which convinced said editorial staff that there must be a difference, and that someone needed to decipher that difference. So I'm visiting all six finalists in the two categories to (sigh) do my job.
Phil Duhon, owner of Oscar's Tejon Street, believes his bar to be more of a hangout because of the high energy it exudes, especially on weekends.
"You go home to chill, so I guess this is a hangout, 'cause you're sick of chillin'," he rationalizes.
But regular patron Ric Mills, while enjoying some Rocky Mountain oysters and a cocktail, says the question is simply "a debate in semantics."
On that note, we turn to the American Heritage Dictionary. The slang definition of "chill": "to calm down or relax; to pass time idly; to keep company." Of "hang out": "to frequent a particular place, esp. in idling away one's free time." Hmmm.
A married couple who frequents The Dublin House has opposing points of view on the subject. While the woman says chilling would be "having a cocktail after work," the guy believes that, as part of the baby-boomer generation, they are too old to know what chilling is.
According to Hans Hoeckel, Dublin House bartender, people "hang out and have a couple of beers, and chill out and watch some games."
Will this be the closest I get to differentiating between the two? I go to Tony's and speak with employee Mary Hutsell.
"With chilling, I get the impression of relaxing in a darker place," says Hutsell. "Hanging out would be more rabble-rousing with your friends."
Eel Anderson, proprietor of Tony's, sounds almost definitive about what his bar offers.
"It's a neighborhood bar with a Midwestern tavern theme," he says. "It's meant to offer a normal place for regulars to hang out."
Got that? No chillin' in Tony's. Only hangin' out.
Bristol Brewing Co. bartender Tom Zurenko also believes his brewery is a "hangout" for "a bunch of regulars." But noting the main attraction as local microbrewed beer, Zurenko concedes that "the after-work crowd does chill out" there.
Grace Friedman, a Phantom Canyon regular who frequents the establishment to play pool with friends says, "Chillin' involves more of sitting down, while hanging out is this doing something, but it's really mellow."
So, like Hutsell intimated, hanging out entails participation in an activity of some sort, while chilling implies more of a mode of relaxation?
Unprompted, Friedman second-guesses.
"Maybe I have that backwards."