The Rocky Flats Lounge went up in flames on July 15, 2015. At the time, the managers promised to reopen soon — certainly by the start of the 2015 football season, since this roadhouse on Highway 93 north of Golden had been a Packers hangout for decades.
But while the Rocky Flats Lounge would occasionally post Facebook messages with encouraging words about the status of repairs to the building, that season came and went, and the bar, long a fixture on our Best Dive Bars list, remained closed. The next season came and went, too, as did the next, and the next.
But now, hundreds of thousands of dollars later, the renovation work is complete, the permits are all in place, and the newly renamed Rocky Flats Bar & Grill finally opened in early July. But it opened with new management and without a key amenity: any alcohol behind that bar.
“As of right now, we’re opening without alcohol — just good food and good atmosphere,” says Chris Hogan, pointing to the new patio area with games, new paint, new bathrooms and new air-conditioning that make the place "less claustrophobic." The Rocky Flats Bar & Grill building sits on the 100-acre Hogan Ranch; Hogan’s great-grandfather, Michael McNamara, first bought property in the area in 1876, then started a homestead there.
In the early '50s, the feds awarded a major plum to metro Denver, and built a massive facility across Highway 93 whose mission was top secret, but brought plenty of workers to the area. Ed Hogan, who was running the ranch at the time, bought several temporary buildings from what was initially dubbed the "Rocky Flats Plant" and moved them across the highway in 1957. In 1961, the plant's old payroll office was turned into a bar.
Although the Hogan family has continued to own the property, the bar has had several different owners and slightly varying names over the decades. After the fire, the owner of the Rocky Flats Lounge wound up turning in its liquor license to Jefferson County. (The owner, who owns the Rocky Flats Lounge name, and former manager are looking for a spot where they can reopen a new version of the place.)
Now the Hogans, who are working with new bar owner Dan Girtin and manager Mike Bever, are negotiating with JeffCo for another liquor license. Chris Hogan acknowledges that the lack of a liquor license “is going to hang us up a little bit,” but he’s hopeful that it will be in place by this football season.
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In the meantime, Girtin and Bever are hoping that other amenities will draw people back to the place. They're adding more outside games for summer activities, as well as expanding the menu to include more healthy, family-friendly options in addition to more standard bar fare. But the grand opening festivities on Friday, July 12, will still include a fish fry starting at 5 p.m.; look for catfish, walleye and perch options.
“We’re calling this the ‘neighborhood bar and grill without a neighborhood,’” Hogan says.
But then, it does have a very famous neighbor, which today is known as the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, and occupies much of the area that was once the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant. After its own series of delays, the refuge (less the 1,300 off-limits acres at the center where the manufacturing was done) opened to the public in September 2018.
While that neighbor no longer makes nuclear triggers, the nearby Rocky Flats Bar & Grill could one day again be a great place to get bombed.