RIFLE — When waitress Ashlee Saenz takes your order at Shooters Grill in Rifle, she not only carries a pad and pen — she also packs a loaded Ruger .357 Blackhawk handgun holstered on her leg, Old West style.
It’s loaded and she knows how to use it.
Saenz and her co-workers, along with customers who come into Shooters, are encouraged by Shooters’ owners to pack heat in the restaurant, as allowed by Colorado law.
The restaurant also hosts concealed carry training — the $75 price tag includes dinner — that qualifies customers for Colorado and Utah permits.
In a nation torn in recent years by emotional Second Amendment debates, fueled in part by mass shootings, there’s no such controversy in this town of 9,200 that’s centered in ranch and natural gas country.
A sign on the front door of Shooters Grill reads, “Guns are welcome on premises. Please keep all weapons holstered, unless the need arises. In such cases, judicious marksmanship is appreciated.”
Shooters owner Lauren Boebert of Rifle said she is simply allowing customers and employees to exercise their constitutional right.
“We encourage it, and the customers love that they can come here and express their rights,” Boebert said. “This country was founded on our freedom. People can come in carrying their gun, and they can pray over their food.”
NO ALCOHOL, ‘GUNS ALL OVER’
Boebert was born in Florida, raised in Aurora and moved to Rifle in 2003, where she met her husband, Jayson. They decided to open a restaurant a little more than a year ago and tried to come up with a good name that would suit the town.
“I consulted with my Christian friends and everyone said ‘Shooters’ sounded like a bar or a strip joint,” Lauren Boebert said with a laugh. “But I thought, this is Rifle — it was founded around guns and the Old West. We called it Shooters and started throwing guns and Jesus all over the place.”
The decor of Shooters — which offers American and Mexican fare and does not serve alcohol — is decidedly Old West, with guns and cowboy art on the walls, a rough-hewn woody look and three large silver crosses that reflect Boebert’s strong religious faith.
Customers on a recent morning had no problem with the gun presence.
Wayne and Martha Greenwald are from a small town called Grand Marais in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and come to Shooters whenever they’re in town. The couple fully support allowing people to carry guns in the restaurant.
“We think it’s just fine — we’re very positive about it,” Wayne Greenwald said. “We carry guns ourselves and own a rifle, shotgun and handguns. We live in a very small town and we take care of our own crime problems. No one comes to Grand Marais to break into someone’s house.”
Said customer Madison Potter of Rifle, “It’s safe and it fits the town well.”