The Green Bay Packers have played 86 games in the four years since a fire gutted the interior of the Rocky Flats Lounge, exiling Front Range Packer Backers from their beloved unofficial headquarters in northern Jefferson County. Now, after lengthy delays in rebuilding efforts, the one-time dive is about to be reborn with a new name and a modern decor intended to be more inviting to families.
New owner Dan Girtin is planning a soft opening for the Rocky Flats Bar & Grill on Thursday, with a grand opening set for July 12. And, yes, there will be a fish fry that night. The old Rocky Flats Lounge was famous among Wisconsin transplants, both for its Friday fish fries and rowdy crowds that filled the place to overflowing when the Packers played.
It looks mostly the same from the outside, but inside it has a much different feel. The old place was dark and felt like a dive bar, which was a part of its charm. The new place is bright, airy and seems larger than the old one. The pool table and juke box are gone, windows have been added and there is a new sliding glass back door that leads out to a patio and play area with gorgeous views of the foothills, from Coal Creek to the Flatirons. The blackened old fireplace remains.
It’s been a long wait since the fire, which occurred July 15, 2015. Judy Hogan, whose family has owned the building and surrounding land for generations, knows only too well.
“Three years, 351 days,” Hogan said on Tuesday.
The delays were caused by insurance issues and complications that included bringing the old building up to code, said Chris Hogan, Judy’s son, adding that insurance paid out $170,000 and the Hogans invested almost $250,000 more. They are still waiting on a liquor license, which they say could take another three to six months.
That could be a big downer for Packers fans, who can be a thirsty bunch. The Packers open their season just nine weeks from now against their century-long rivals, the Chicago Bears.
“It will be sometime during the season; it just won’t be for a little bit,” Chris Hogan said of the lack of liquor. “We want people to feel comfortable bringing their families here. It’s not the smoky old bar anymore.”
The menu will include Wisconsin fare such as cheese curds, along with typical bar food such as chicken wings, quesadillas, chili cheese fries, burgers and onion rings. There will be healthier options, too.
“We’re definitely not as fried as it was,” Girtin said. “We’re going to continue with the fish fries. That seems to be a staple of this bar in the community.”
Girtin owns the restaurant business while the Hogan family is leasing him the building, which has a colorful history. Six generations of Hogans grew up on the surrounding ranch. Judy remembers learning to drive on Highway 93, now a busy highway connecting Golden and Boulder, when it was a dirt road. The building where the Rocky Flats Lounge was born used to be a payroll office for the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant across the road, before it was moved from the plant site to the Hogan Ranch on the west side of 93.
It became a restaurant/bar in 1961, Judy Hogan said, and was a hangout for Rocky Flats employees. One of the early owners was from Wisconsin, so she started the Friday fish fries, which led to the place becoming a Packers hangout. When the Packers weren’t playing, it was a biker bar.
“Sometimes 75 of them would be parked here at one time,” said Judy Hogan, whose home sits just north of the bar. “When they’d go to leave, they would stand in the middle of the highway and stop traffic so they could all get out. My windows would rattle when they’d drive out.”
Production of nuclear weapons components at Rocky Flats ended in 1989. Cleanup operations began in 1995 and ended a decade later. Now there’s a massive new housing development just a couple of miles to the southeast, which is one reason the Rocky Flats Bar & Grill aims to be more family-friendly than its predecessor.
“They used to call it the neighborhood bar with no neighborhood,” Chris Hogan said. “At least the neighborhood is getting closer.”
Girton and the Hogans are hoping Cheeseheads will find their way back. Most of the Packers-oriented decorations were lost in the fire, but they do have an autographed Packers football they intend to put in a glass case, and they expect to add more Packers paraphernalia.
“But this is Colorado,” Chris Hogan said, “so there’s probably going to be some orange and blue to go with the green.”