Kelly Sloan, The Business Times
A Western Colorado restaurant has attracted attention not only for its food and service, but also the fealty of its owner and staff to the Second Amendment.
The aptly-named Shooters Grill in downtown Rifle has made national and international news and attracted customers from around the country after media reports on the practice of waitresses openly carrying handguns.
Lauren Boebert, who owns Shooters Grill along with her husband Jayson, said armed waitresses was never part of a concerted marketing campaign.
“About three weeks after we opened in May 2013, I started carrying a handgun for my own protection and that of my employees,” Boebert said. She said she decided to do so following reports of an altercation in an alley near the restaurant. “Soon, several of my employees approached me asking if they could as well.”
Boebert said the restaurant has a training program in place run by the Utah-based firearms firm Legal Heat that all employees who wish to carry guns must complete.
Shooters Grill also offers a special training package to customers, Boebert said. “For $75, you can get a meal and a concealed carry permit.”
Publicity for the restaurant initially was spurred not by its armed staff, but food and service. In its first year of operation, Shooters Grill has won 11 Local Choice Awards in a program conducted by the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, including recognition for best sandwich, best overall restaurant in Rifle and second-best restaurant in Garfield County.
“We were competing against the best restaurants in Glenwood Springs,” Boebert said.
In the course of writing a story on Shooters Grill, a Post Independent reporter noticed the armed staff, the relative novelty of which became the story.
From there, news of the restaurant in Rifle where the waitresses pack heat spread across the country and even internationally.
The result has been an exponential increase in business, Boebert said. “Our business has just multiplied and multiplied again.”
While Boebert maintains the practice of allowing staff to carry side arms was not a marketing idea, she acknowledges the publicity has brought customers through the doors.
“We have seen many customers from other states, from Kansas and Utah, to all the way from Alaska and Florida,” Boebert said. “We have had people come from as far away as Chicago just to eat here.”
Boebert said she’s not making any particular political statement, either, aside from simply exercising her rights. “We are just grateful to still have our Second Amendment rights. I just want to be able to take advantage of Colorado’s open carry laws.”
The success of her restaurant has Boebert considering expansion. “We would like to open another restaurant and we would like to franchise someday.” Although she said she can’t yet reveal where it will be located, Boebert admitted a second Shooters Grill restaurant is planned.
While she said her goal is to eventually franchise the operation, Boebert said she wants the focus to remain on the quality, home-cooked food she serves to avoid pre-packaged uniformity. “The goal with franchising will be to keep our food local and fresh.”
Success hasn’t been limited to Shooters Grill. Boebert said other local business owners have reported an increase in customers and sales as well. “The Rifle Chamber says that they get dozens of people asking about Shooters,” she said.
Benefitting everyone in Rifle remains a goal for Boebert. “We want to see Rifle succeed.”
A devout Christian, Boebert credits God more than the holsters and guns on her waitresses’ hips with her family’s success. “We committed the restaurant to God, and it has been successful.”
Whether it’s ultimately the food, service, pistol-packing waitresses, faith — or a combination of all the above — Boebert aims for success and appears to have hit her target.