Paul Sullivan spent years selling craft beer to liquor stores, bars, and restaurants in the Denver area. Although he enjoyed it, he always wanted to do his own thing. “I noticed an opportunity in the neighborhood I live in because there were a lot of young families like mine,” says the father of daughters ages 3 and 8. “There wasn’t a place that was family-friendly, that wasn’t fancy and was also really good. I saw the opportunity to open a nice neighborhood family place—the kind of place I’d want to go to with my wife and my kids.” So Sullivan and his wife, Emily Brown, opened Esters Neighborhood Pub in their Virginia Village neighborhood in 2015. Successful and with a loyal following, the couple opened their second location in the Oneida Park retail area in Park Hill in late December 2018, dubbing it Esters Neighborhood Pub at Oneida.
The original concept for Esters was simple: pizza and craft beer. “My two favorite things,” says Sullivan. “It’s not an original concept, by any means, but I love it.” But then Sullivan met Robby Hyre, whom he hired as Executive Chef for both locations. Sullivan handed over his vision for the menu and Hyre made it happen, creating all of the recipes. The scratch-made menu includes appetizers, sandwiches, salads, and desserts. Options change with the season and Hyre utilizes local ingredients and vendors whenever possible.
On any given day, at either location, Sullivan says he’ll see a group of men in their ‘80’s talking over coffee or beers, next to a group of college students watching the game, near a group of parents with their kids. “We want to create a friendly, warm atmosphere,” says Sullivan and that includes making sure everyone feels welcome. Keenly aware of how uncomfortable it can be to go out to eat with kids, Sullivan makes sure his staff is ready and willing to handle any situation. “A lot of our co-workers have a previous life in childcare or babysitting or teaching. We really go out of our way to make sure THEY go out of their way to be friendly to people.” For diners looking for a quieter experience, Sullivan says some times and days are better than others like brunch, lunch or a later dinner. “If you come in at 6:30pm, if you don’t want a lot of chaos, that’s probably not the best time for you. We try to accommodate everyone. It’s hard to pull that off all the time but we try.”
Those familiar with Esters in Virginia Village will feel right at home in the Oneida Park location because the spaces look almost exactly alike. Sullivan’s wife, who worked in commercial interior design, worked with an architect/designer friend on both locations. “We tried to recreate everything—the reclaimed wood, walnut tabletops, the paint colors, bar, chairs—everything is as similar as I can make it,” says Sullivan. People who frequent the original location say “You can feel Esters here,” which Sullivan takes as a great compliment.
Sullivan and his wife love the Park Hill neighborhood and feel it’s the perfect place for their second location. “I felt like we had a really good thing going over in that neighborhood and I wanted to get a really good thing going in Park Hill.” When asked if he’s glad he left the beer sales business for the restaurant business, Sullivan responds, “I’m thrilled with what I’m doing. I get to talk to people, be in a neighborhood and part of that community. I always wanted to do this.”