Shawn Hanrahan and his brother Colin took over operations of the pizzeria and bar in March. The Hanrahans are originally from Iowa, a state without a major football team; Iowans often become fans of nearby teams or those loved by family members. Shawn and Colin's grandfather was a Green Bay Packers fan, and so, as Shawn explains, “We were raised right.” Both own shares of the Packers.
Jack Rabbit Slims used to be the spot for fans of Packers rival the Minnesota Vikings. But whether it's the food, ambience or location, Shawn says the rivalry between the two teams hasn't kept the Vikings regulars from the newly christened Packers bar.
Jack Rabbits owner Sue Freeman sold the business because she wanted to retire, and the transition was smooth: The Hanrahans didn't close for a single day. Most of the staff stayed on, too. The main change, beyond the Packers memorabilia found on nearly every surface of the bar, is the menu. The Hanrahans have been spicing it up with some not-so-secret family secrets.
Shawn and Colin’s family have run an Italian restaurant in Iowa since 1939. Their great grandfather, who immigrated to the US from Italy around 1920, made his way to Iowa, where he worked making candy for a small candy shop. After some time learning the trade, he started his own business, Rastrelli’s, originally a soda shop and candy store. The shop transitioned to a from-scratch Italian restaurant that has grown over the years.
Shawn only spent nine months working in the family restaurant and Colin has not worked there, but they have the Rastrelli’s book of family recipes, filled with dishes that have been passed down in the family or written by Shawn during his time in the kitchen. They are both self-professed foodies, and Colin has extensive kitchen experience, having worked in five pizzerias, including Fat Sully’s and Pizza Bar 66 in Lyons.
So far, most of the business has been in person, and regulars are what hold the business up — even those Vikings fans. “I would rather entice people to come in,” says Shawn, speaking of boosting in-person business rather than focusing on delivery.
The Hanrahans plan to keep most features of the former bar the same, with a few personal twists. All of the televisions have stayed, so there are plenty of screens for catching games, but a pool table has been added. Much of the menu has stayed, though some recipes have been updated to reflect the family recipes from Iowa. Jack Rabbit Slims had a Mug Club for regulars — with large, labeled 20-ounce mugs on a shelf behind the bar. Shawn is developing something similar, though it will be more of a digital loyalty club than a physical mug club. He also plans to transform a section of the wall into a showcase for a rotating local artist.
While operating a restaurant fits with a family tradition for the Hanrahans, Shawn’s motivation was also inspired by his fifteen years working in the cannabis industry. He sees public places for social consumption of cannabis on the horizon, and wants to cut his teeth in a bar and restaurant so he can potentially launch a cannabis bar and Italian restaurant in the future. He sees a place identical to a sports bar, where people would gather on Sundays to watch football — not with a beer, but with cannabis mocktails and infused pizza.
But for now, Shawn and his brother are cutting their teeth at this classic bar and pizzeria, working on introducing Denver to their family recipes and hoping to attract football fans, Packers or otherwise.