The Jefferson Park Pub is a small neighborhood bar in one of the tiniest neighborhoods in Denver. Jefferson Park itself is a roughly 45-square-block residential enclave bordered by Speer Boulevard to the north and Federal Boulevard to the west. The Platte River cuts along its eastern border, and the southern border of the neighborhood is basically where it runs into Mile High Stadium. People not in the know might mistake it for part of the nearby Highland neighborhood, or even part of Sloan's Lake. But this small-but-proud neighborhood is its own entity, with its own neighborhood bar.
My experiences at the Jefferson Park Pub mostly involve my friends who live nearby, all of whom have children. This is a neighborhood where you can buy a large fixer-upper and still afford to live within Denver city limits. My Jefferson Park friends are also the sort who don't let having kids condemn them to a life of never going out again, which is something I admire. One friend even maintains a list of what she calls "kid bars," places where it won't be frowned upon to have bring the little ones along. Jefferson Park Pub is one such establishment. On a recent Sunday afternoon visit, I ran into a professional acquaintance who was there watching soccer, five-year-old in tow. There were several groups of thirty- and forty-somethings, and one other family who had an impressively quiet baby at the table. Everyone seemed to know each other — and also seemed really into the soccer game.
According to owner Sara Bechun, the other group of sports fans to frequent the Jefferson Park Pub are Iowa Hawkeye football fans. Sara and her sister, Stephanie Cook, who opened the bar together a little over two years ago, are from Iowa and would open at 9 a.m. before daytime college football games. Word got around, and ever since, there have been folks from Iowa popping in — even when there's not a game on. Bechun's father even sent her a cork board with an Iowa state map so that guests could add pins to mark their home towns.
Despite the fact that neither of us were from Iowa, my friend and I felt very welcomed by the crowd at the pub that Sunday, and our young, eager-to-please bartender (also a recent import from Iowa) was so friendly and attentive that we just had to order multiple rounds of drinks. The Pub's specialty cocktails make you feel fancy, but at $6 or $7 apiece, they aren't overpriced like some you might find down the road in LoHi. The menu features upscale pub fare, including the snack we tried: a tasty homemade pretzel with mustard and pimento cheese. The tap list is solid, including everything from Coors Light and Guinness to local selections from breweries like Upslope and Great Divide.
Ambience is the key at local watering holes, and the Jefferson Park is no exception. The whole place is carefully designed; Bechun and Cook were involved every step of the way. Before its current life as a bar, the building was apparently a workspace for a guy who created dinosaur-bone exhibits. Neighbors told them that sometimes they would be surprised to see dinosaur skeletons coming in and out of the building in the middle of the night. After acquiring the location, the sisters created their vision from scratch, working with artist Brian Travis to make a back bar out of reclaimed wood. The bar top adds character with objects cemented into it, including the bottle of champagne they used to christen the place.
The bar is small enough that pretty much everyone in the place can talk to each other, or yell about sporting events together, without even having to get up from their tables. The patio welcomes dogs, and there is a selection of board games behind the bar. The games could be for the kids who come with their parents, or they could be for the adults, because who doesn't enjoy a good game of Connect Four at the bar every once in a while?
It's definitely the sort of place I would take my young child if I had one. I don't get the sense that they ever have to 86 anyone here or that bar fights are a problem. The most lively time to come is Saturday night, when the bar hosts free live music. The pub is also open late, complete with a happy hour from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. The after-midnight crowd is primarily an industry one, with folks who work in LoHi or downtown stopping by before heading home. There aren't many places in the area open late, so there's usually a substantial crew around to replace any neighborhood folks who may have made it an early night.
Jefferson Park Pub can be your home away from home if you're a resident of the small cluster of blocks that make up Jefferson Park, and no one will look at you funny if you bring your kid or your dog. If you're from Iowa, the pub is your place to put your pin in the Iowa map and enjoy some touchdown shots during a Hawkeye football game. If neither of those descriptions applies to you, don't worry — they won't hold it against you, and you'll still feel like a neighbor at this friendly neighborhood spot.
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