It seems that after nearly a decade of operation, the popular Shooters Grill—for years just about the only attraction in downtown Rifle, Colorado—is set to shut down for good.
It was one of the only restaurants in the US where you could have your burger and fries served to you by a smiling waitress who also happened to be packing heat, a marketing gimmick that fit in nicely with the old Colorado ranching town’s unusual name and Old West mystique. Shooters Grill also launched its owner to political celebrity and Republican superstardom. The only politician more popular than Donald Trump in western Colorado is Representative Lauren Boebert; drive through any town that isn’t Telluride or Durango or Aspen and you’re virtually guaranteed to come across a “This is Boebert Country” sign planted in someone’s yard.
But on Sunday, Boebert announced that she’ll be officially shuttering her iconic restaurant.
“We were like a family,” she said, according to the local Steamboat Pilot & Today. “I would say Shooters, for any employee, was their life. We lived and breathed it every single day. They were a part of this culture and brand that we created in Rifle, and there was a lot of pride with that.”
Things started to go south, apparently, when a new landlord—Milken Enterprises—took over the building that houses the establishment, and informed Boebert in Jun that they wouldn’t be renewing her lease. For Boebert, the announcement was unexpected, to say the least, and though she called the new landlord, “there wasn’t really much wiggle room or anywhere to compromise unless we bought the building ourselves.”
“Within the next two hours, I had reporters reaching out to me asking me if this was true and if we were being evicted,” Boebert added. “I said, ‘Well, we’re not being evicted. The lease is not being renewed—that’s a big difference.'” Obviously, most outlets would prefer it if Boebert, the perennial béte noire of the left-wing media, were being unceremoniously evicted as a rebuke and punishment for her conservative principles, but the truth of the matter is quite different.
So what’s next for Boebert the innovative restaurateur? Will Shooters be resurrected in some other dusty frontier town on Colorado’s Western Slope? Or will it become some dim-remembered western myth, like Butch Cassidy or Kit Carson? Boebert won’t promise anything, but she said that she and her husband, Jayson, have plans to continue the Shooters brand and culture where it belongs, on Rifle’s Third Street.
“We would just dramatically scale it back, because, obviously, we’re not in our building,” she said. “It may look like a Shooters coffee shop with pastries and some easy breakfast sandwiches and merchandise.”
Meanwhile, an image of the restaurant published in the Post Independent shows a chalk sandwich board with the message “Thanks for the Support. Stay Tuned. #Covfefe.” With Shooters gone, one of Rifle’s most notable attractions would disappear after a short run. The idea for the restaurant originally came about after Boebert volunteered to minister to female inmates at the local Garfield County Jail, where she was inspired to help the women “trade their shame for glory.”
She ended up hiring some of them to staff her restaurant after they were released. The pistol-packing theme came later, following an alleged murder that occurred in front of the establishment, and which prompted some of Boebert’s staff to petition to open carry. It later turned out that the murder victim had actually OD’d on meth, but the idea for gun-carrying wait staff was born, and it took on a life of its own. The restaurant was soon serving up to 100 tables a day and employing over 75 people.
It also became famous for its menu, offering such novelties as a “Guac Nine” burger. Boebert’s campaign headquarters, easily recognizable with its giant “THIS IS BOEBERT COUNTRY” sign, is also in jeopardy, since it was next door to her restaurant in the same building.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” Boebert said. “I don’t regret anything. It’s always sad to close a chapter. But this is where we’re at.”
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