COVID-19: Lauren Boebert on Grill Closed After Unauthorized Opening

Outside dining in front of Shooters Grill in Rifle prior to its May 15 closure.
Outside dining in front of Shooters Grill in Rifle prior to its May 15 closure. Shooters Grill
Editor's note: At the May 18 hearing over the temporary suspension of her license to serve food by Garfield County Public Health, Shooters Grill co-owner Lauren Boebert asked for and was granted a continuance until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow, May 19. Continue for our previous coverage from earlier in the morning:

In a post published on May 14, congressional candidate Lauren Boebert spoke at length about her decision to reopen Shooters Grill, the Rifle restaurant she co-owns, even though a statewide restaurant closure imposed by Governor Jared Polis remains in place. A day later, on May 15, Garfield County public-health officials temporarily suspended the eatery's license to serve food in advance of a hearing scheduled at 9 a.m. today, May 18.

Late on May 15, Boebert posted this on the Shooters Grill Facebook page: "Shortly after 5 p.m., the Garfield County Health Department suspended my food license. My restaurant can't serve food until further notice. A virtual hearing is scheduled for Monday. Governor Polis, your policies are literally bankrupting small businesses like mine that are trying their very best to responsibly stay afloat. This has to stop."

Boebert also shared a video in which she noted: "I said I was taking this day by day and here we are on Friday. Shortly after 5 p.m., Garfield Public Health stopped by and suspended my food license. So we are not serving food until I meet with them on Monday morning at 9 a.m. I have a hearing scheduled and I will keep you all updated. Thank you so much for your support.... God bless you."

Here's the clip:

Several hours after the publication of the May 14 Westword story, Boebert shared the photo at the top of this post along with a caption that reads: "Thank you all for helping make today great! Our customers have been the most patient, kind and supportive! We moved our restaurant out to the street, then to the sidewalk and then back inside as we closed for the night! Thank you for all the encouragement we have received from you all right here on fb too! It’s like you were with us all day!"

In our initial conversation with Boebert (she has not yet provided additional comments to Westword about the recent Garfield County action), she noted that before deciding to reopen without official permission, "I talked to the City of Rifle about blocking off parking spaces in front of the restaurant so we could serve people, but they wouldn't give me permission."

Nonetheless, the procedures instituted at Shooters Grill stood in sharp contrast with the no-masks-and-no-social-distancing approach demonstrated by Castle Rock's C&C Coffee and Kitchen during a Mother's Day event captured in a video that prompted Polis to temporarily suspend its license.

"We're only open to 30 percent capacity, and we're doing social distancing," Boebert told us last week. "We've taped off some tables to make it clear they're not available, so there are no accidents. And my waitresses are wearing masks when they're in close contact with customers and gloves while serving food. Also, we don't have our caddies on the table: Instead of leaving condiments, they're provided to customers as needed and sanitized after they're used. And we sanitize the booths and tables and everything after every use."

There's no telling if these efforts will make a difference at today's hearing. But in a May 16 Facebook post in which she thanked supporters for their encouraging words, Boebert wrote, "Many are asking how they can support us during this time. My aim is to keep my employees paid through merchandise sales. They depend on my business to provide for their families. Your purchase goes to payroll; it's to my highly dedicated staff! Blessings!"

The merchandise link is accompanied by a photo of a T-shirt with "We the People" emblazoned over an illustration of a snake framed by two automatic weapons, with an American flag on one sleeve and a "Don't Tread on Me" emblem on the other.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts