Against all odds, despite hundreds of protests and dozens of lawsuits, some still pending, the former Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant opened to the public last fall as the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge. At the site sixteen miles northwest of Denver, you can traipse across more than 5,000 acres of trail and Xeric tallgrass prairie; only 1,000 acres at the center, where most of the plutonium processing occurred, are off limits.
But across Highway 93, the Rocky Flats Lounge, a longtime fixture on our Best Dive Bar list, is a goner. Like all stories that contain the words "Rocky Flats," though, this one is not simple.
Back in the early ’50s, the former payroll office for the top-secret nuclear weapons plant was moved across Highway 93 to a spot on the Hogan Ranch and turned into a bar. At the time, Rocky Flats workers were its most faithful customers, but it was later discovered by bikers and others out for a jaunt along the Foothills, and the Friday night fish-fries soon turned it into a major watering hole for Green Bay Packers fans.
The building housing the Rocky Flats Lounge suffered a devastating fire in the summer of 2015, and after numerous permitting and construction delays, the rebuilt structure looked close to reopening this past fall, right on time for the new football season, not to mention the refuge's debut. But then? Nothing.
On March 17, the bar's managers broke their silence to post an update on the Rocky Flats Lounge Facebook page:
We regret to inform everyone that we will no longer be located on hwy 93. After decades of being at that location, Rocky Flats Lounge has no choice but to move.
We've had a lot of people contacting us for a current update, and we know we've been M.I.A. lately. We apologize, it's difficult to put into words what has occurred. We appreciate everyone's support and concern for our business.
After bringing you a great Wisconsin-style atmosphere since the early 80's, and working our butt off these last 3+ years to reopen, lease negotiations with the landlords didn't work out. Upon consulting with a variety of professionals, we had to do what is best for Rocky Flats Lounge.
This situation has been extremely heartbreaking to say the least. We hope you all stick with us as we continue our search for another location in the Denver area. If any of you have suggestions on locations for Rocky Flats Lounge, please feel free to send us a message.
During our involvement in the rebuild, we had countless interactions with curious supporters stopping by. We ask that you message us here if you have any future questions or concerns.
Due to our dedicated customer base, and the community we've built, Rocky Flats Lounge will live on. We also intend on using all of your generous donations/decorations at a new location.
Thank you to everyone who has helped us along the way, it's been a great run. Here's to new beginnings and a new location.
Your Rocky Mountain Wisconsin Bar, RFL
While that message signals the end of the Rocky Flats Lounge at that location, it's not the end of the story: The Rocky Flats Bar and Grill will soon debut in its former home. According to Chris Hogan, a member of the family that owns the property and remodeled the building after the fire, they weren't able to come to terms with the old management, and the Rocky Flats Lounge has moved on.
But a new, rejuvenated bar will open sometime in April in the same basic structure, with new appliances, a new bar, an expanded patio and brand-new bathrooms. "Two-holers, even," Hogan says.
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"We're getting off the old theme, the 'hole-in-the-wall' dive bar, and making it into something nicer," he explains. "More of a family place with better service and better food."
So the Rocky Flats Lounge is gone, but the Rocky Flats Bar and Grill will soon be pouring in its place.
As generations of drinkers can tell you, it's a great spot to get bombed.
Updated at 1:52 p.m. March 18: This story was updated to include the news that while the management of the Rocky Flats Lounge has moved on, the building will reopen next month as the Rocky Flats Bar and Grill.